Recently I had the pleasure of working with the staff at Camp K9 Petcare Center in Madison, WI. This was a short notice consulting trip. Lori Campbell (who owns Camp K9 with her husband, Duncan) called me because she knew I would be in the area and asked if I would stay an extra day to come to her place. Lori is a charter member of The Dog Gurus and her facility uses Knowing Dogs, so I was excited for the chance to work with them. I am so glad I did! Camp K9 was amazing! Not only was the facility gorgeous, but the staff was friendly and energetic, and the dogs were emotionally healthy and having fun! It was the ideal combination of things. The trip was a great reminder to me about some key principles of running a great business.
- The staff is a reflection of the values and commitment of the owners. It’s clear that the staff at Camp K9 values education, best practices, teamwork, and an extreme commitment to learning new things. This trickles down from Lori’s own values. She is an avid learner, she seeks out advice, she encourages her staff to learn, and she trusts others to make her business work. The staff emulated these values as well. They were eager to find ways to improve and more than willing to try new things. They worked together as a team and there was repeated acknowledgement about the fact that everyone works together to keep the dogs safe. I don’t think this type of work culture is an accident. I think a key principle of business is that the staff reflects the owners. If you are having trouble with your staff or the culture at your business, look at ways to improve yourself first. That’s what great leaders do.
- The best way to have great staff is to hire great people and then let them do their job! These two ideas go hand in hand. Micromanagement usually results in low quality staff members who don’t care to think outside the box or take on any responsibility. Those are the same staff members who drive most pet care facility owners crazy. On the other hand, high capacity staff members usually have a strong desire to take on some responsibility and be allowed to take control of their workspace. And that is a challenge because most entrepreneurs like to be in control and don’t enjoy delegating to others. So pick your battle! I would rather have the high capacity employees and learn to give up control! When you get great people AND let them do their job, magic happens. At Camp K9 the staff was engaged, they asked clarifying questions, and they wanted to know how to improve. Despite the great job they were already doing, all their questions boiled down to “What should be doing to be even better?” The staff asked these questions with Lori in the room and with Lori encouraging them to participate! It’s a great team!
- Humility is an overlooked and often underappreciated leadership trait. Lori’s place is clearly one of the best I have seen, and yet her team seemed genuinely humbled by praise. They have great pride in what they are doing (and they should!), but that was coupled with a large degree of humility. It seems to me that professional excellence and humility should go hand in hand. The best leaders and teams seem to have an equal measure of both. This was certainly true of Lori and her team at Camp K9. The ability to have pride without arrogance was also something Jim Collins recognized in what he called Level 5 leaders in his book, Good to Great.
I had an amazing visit in Madison, WI and I hope the staff learned as much from me as I learned from them. If I ever move to Wisconsin, I’ll be taking my dogs to Camp K9. If you are already there, check them out!