CASE STUDY: Zingerman’s Business Practices Have Gone to the Cats and Dogs!
It’s not what it sounds like. We aren’t now in the business of sharing Zingerman’s approach to business with cats and dogs. At least not yet… can you imagine trying to teach a bunch of dogs Zingerman’s 3 Steps to Giving Great Service? It would be ruff. (Sorry!)
But, we have had the pleasure of getting to know Mary Hansen and Lindsay Strait, who, last fall, opened K9 Club, an urban pet care facility located in Troy, Michigan. Visit their website and get a feel for the amazing space they’ve created—it reminds us of a hip Airbnb for your furry friends! Nicer than the facility, though, are these two amazing people running it. We were fortunate enough to get to know Mary and Lindsay in the years leading up to the opening of K9 Club’s doors, when they attended several of ZingTrain’s 2-day seminars. We checked in with them during opening week and here’s what they had to say about how they applied their ZingTrain learnings:
How did your relationship with ZingTrain get started?
Mary: Ari was one of the first people to know about our business! In fact, he knew about it before we even broke ground. I am just so passionate about Zingerman’s – I go to the Deli a lot, I’ve taken a lot of BAKE! classes, so I knew Ari before I ever took my first seminar. In getting to know him better, I learned just how much of a dog lover he is!
Which of ZingTrain’s 2-day seminars have you attended so far?
Mary: We’ve been to Creating a Vision of Greatness, Managing Ourselves, Working with Zing!, The Art of Giving Great Service, and the Orientation Classic – a special one-time event where Ari gave the “Welcome to the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses” orientation class, until then only given to Zingerman’s staff, to the masses!
That’s a really diverse set of seminars! You were in a unique position in that you took the seminars prior to ever opening the doors to your business. Can you tell us what that was like?
Mary: We feel really fortunate that we were able to open our doors having taken as many of the seminars! Had we taken them one or two years after opening, making changes to our culture might feel like an even bigger undertaking than forming our culture using what we learned. We feel really fortunate that we were able to apply our learnings prior to opening and right out of the gate.
What are some of the ways you’ve applied what you learned at the various seminars to your business so far?
We wrote a Mission Statement
Mary: Well, to start, we have a mission statement now! I don’t know that we would have opened our doors having written one had we not taken the seminars. Having a mission statement was something that really resonated with us. We saw Zingerman’s mission statement all over the place when we attended the seminars–in the marketing materials, on the walls in the training room and throughout the various Zingerman’s businesses, and in the words that were spoken and that really drove it home.
Lindsay:It helped us solidify what we wanted our mission statement to be. It meant a lot for us to really dig deep and do some research–as a business, who and what did we want to be?
How We Train our Staff
Mary: As part of their onboarding, each K9 Club staff member gets a special binder. When they open the binder, the very first thing they see is a mini-version of our 10-4 Rule poster. [Note: Zingerman’s 10-4 Rule states that anytime you’re within 10 feet of a guest, make eye contact and smile. Within 4 feet, greet them verbally.] We worked with a graphic artist to do a special version of the 10-4 Rule using K9 Club’s artwork. We use the same verbiage that Zingerman’s uses, we just applied our own look and feel to it. We’ve even had it put on canvas and framed into poster size and it’s up in our employee break area, too! We’ve also purchased every single one of Ari’s pamphlets. We’ve found them to be a great tool to impart to our staff some of our learnings from the various seminars. During the two-week training we held prior to opening our doors, we passed them around to everyone to read. They now live in the break room and our hope is that employees will thumb through them on company time. We plan to carve out some time on a weekly basis to get together and debrief some of the learnings and insights everyone has taken away from the pamphlets.
Going the Extra Mile
Mary: We encourage staff to be comfortable coming to us and advocating to take action if they see something “extra” that could be done for a customer. We want them to know we’re open to ideas they have. As an example, we had a customer come and pick up her dog and one of our staff members noticed that in addition to a very large dog, she had a few toys, a leash, some treats – in other words, her hands were full! The staff member offered to walk her dog to the car for her. We want to encourage our staff to go the extra mile, so they’ll hear that term a lot.
Lindsay: We encourage them to think, “How can I improve this person’s day?”
Mary: We like to go the extra mile for staff, too. During the training we held prior to opening, we cooked food for the staff each day (even though we aren’t a food service business). We were delighted to treat them. And people love food, it makes them happy. During training, we asked a few icebreaker questions, one of which was, “What’s your favorite candy?” On the last day of training, we gave each staff member their favorite candy as an extra mile.
What was it like to adapt your learnings from ZingTrain to K9 Club?
Mary: Throughout each seminar, we were encouraged to take away, adapt and implement what would be most useful to us. It didn’t feel like we were copying Zingerman’s, exactly, more like you were providing resources for us to use and adapt how we saw fit. For example, we took the Zingerman’s job application we received in the Working With Zing! seminar and made a few tweaks to make it work for us. It was such a solid foundation. We’ve used so many of the resources we received in the seminars as a foundation for our business. We have a huge respect for your organization and are so thankful you’re practically in our backyard.
You wrote a vision at the Creating a Vision of Greatness seminar for K9 Club. Now that you’ve opened your doors, do you see that vision starting to come to life?
Mary: It really is coming to life. It’s hard to believe that, but now that I look back… when I wrote the first vision, everything seemed so abstract to me. I knew we’d be opening and the business was going to be real and tangible thing, yet at that time it still seemed so far away. But now that we’re open and operational and we have staff on board and they’re clocking in everyday… it’s really real. So yes, I can really see that we’re on that journey.
What are you most excited about now that you’re officially open for business?
Lindsay: I’m most excited about seeing all of the dogs and watching them interact with the space. There aren’t a lot of boarding facilities that have gone above and beyond in the way they’ve built and run the business like we have. We took every part of the pet’s health and safety into very careful consideration when we designed and set up the space. To be able to open the doors and be able to provide the care to the pets is the most exciting thing to me!
What is advice you would give to someone who is thinking about coming to a ZingTrain seminar?
Mary: The seminars were an invaluable experience. It really helped give me confidence—confidence I’m not sure I would have otherwise had. At the onset of opening a new business, you’re doing so much—looking at different software systems, managing all of the paperwork, the list goes on! You take away things that you could never imagine. It would be hard to explain the seminar experience to someone else… I would almost compare it to trying to describe somewhere you’ve travelled to someone else who’s never been there. Unless they had been there themselves, it would be hard for them to grasp how amazing it is!
Lindsay: Come to the training with an open mind. As a participant, you’re away from your business and that can make you feel out of your comfort zone. But ZingTrain makes it so comfortable that you ease your way into it. A few of the seminars involve roleplay and, although many people shy away from it at first (me!), after attending the seminars and seeing how much it helps, I’m a believer! We’ve found it to be such a useful training tool at K9 Club – we role play all the time now. I’d say your seminars aren’t just a class, they’re an experience.
Mary: I got teary-eyed after each seminar ended – it was emotional. After two or three days, I found myself totally immersed! Attending a ZingTrain seminar is a very special, meaningful experience.
What we love about K9 Club’s story is that they’re a great example of how our 2-day seminars can help play a key role in building a solid and thoughtful foundation for a business. A foundation that will better set them up for success when they open their doors!