Feeling connected and passionate about the mission that you’re on: We are proud to be improving the lives of dogs and their people. We are all dog lovers at Scenthound, and I know I am personally fueled by the love for my dog, Lucy. She brings my family and I comfort and unconditional love, and we stay connected to our mission because of that love. The thought of helping other dogs like Lucy and other families like mine is easily one of the biggest motivators to make our business succeed.
As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tim Vogel, founder and CEO of Scenthound, a wellness-based grooming franchise focused on providing preventive care to keep dogs clean and healthy. Combining his entrepreneurial drive, his love for his dog, Lucy, and his desire to make a difference in peoples’ lives, Tim spent the last decade and a half building and growing businesses in the pet space. Tim started his business initially in 2005 with one single grooming van. Over the years, he noted a lack of education among pet parents. Many people did not seem to know about the regular care it takes to keep their dog healthy. The answer is simple: grooming on a routine basis. In 2015, Tim founded a new grooming concept, Scenthound, designed to improve the lives of dogs and their people by removing barriers to clean, healthy dogs.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I started off by opening a mobile pet grooming business in 2005 with big plans to scale and grow, but realized there were barriers that would hold me back from growing my brand the way that I had hoped. Fueled by my love for dogs and my passion to make a difference, I spent 15 years studying the pet industry and figuring out what I had to do to make a big splash in it. That’s what started my journey to Scenthound, which is the only wellness-based grooming franchise in the world. Everything that we do is based on keeping dogs clean and healthy, with the goal of removing barriers between dogs and their humans.
I went from having one grooming van to now opening over 30 locations across the country, and that’s just the beginning for Scenthound. The initial concept was hard to scale because traditional groomers offer breed-specific haircuts, and I knew that we had to simplify things to grow. We radically simplified the grooming process and transitioned our services from focusing on aesthetics to wellness. There was (and still is!) a huge lack of education among pet parents, many of which do not realize that just because your dog may not need a haircut doesn’t mean it doesn’t need grooming. All dogs need grooming to stay clean and healthy. We made the shift to become a wellness groomer, focusing on our services that were catered to all breeds of dogs, while also offering simple one-length haircuts for breeds that do not shed. Now, Scenthound is shaking up the pet industry and teaching pet parents across the country about dog health and wellness.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
In the very beginning, we had just one grooming van and one groomer. We were just getting the business going, and one morning my groomer broke the news that she got into a pretty bad accident in the van. The next day, she quit the job. I was left with a wrecked van and no employee. I had to get the van fixed and step up and groom the dogs myself until I could find a replacement. Another hard time was when we started to grow, and we got up to four vans and hit a plateau. It got too hard to continue growing because it was difficult to find quality groomers and maintain the vans. I knew we didn’t have the right solution to continue scaling the business anymore. In both instances, I never considered giving up. The ultimate motivation was thinking about all of the dogs that I knew I could help if I scaled my business the right way. I understood the huge opportunity I had right in front of me, and that I needed to strategize in order to make it happen.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
I was filling in for a groomer who called in sick, so I went out and did the job. I myself was not the best groomer, but I went and spent about two hours grooming a golden retriever in the van. When he was finished, I brought him back into the house and then let him off the leash. The perfectly clean dog immediately ran through the house, out the back door, and jumped into the lake behind their house. The moral of the story: always ask the owner if you can let the dog off the leash.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We solve a problem that’s currently not being solved by any other groomer in the industry. My “aha” moment was when I was chatting with a neighbor who had a Labrador retriever. He told me his dog did not go to a groomer because he didn’t need haircuts, but I could tell the dog was in need of some serious care. I could smell the dog’s ear infection and see how his overgrown nails were deforming his knuckles. That’s when I realized that not only was there a lack of education among dog owners surrounding grooming, but that there was no groomer out there dedicated to preventive care that focused on all breeds of dogs, not just dogs that require haircuts. All dogs benefit from bathed coats, trimmed nails, clean teeth, and odor-free ears.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Passion is the number one elixir for burnout. I believe that you have to love what you do, because that’s what is going to give you the drive necessary to keep going through hard times. If you are feeling signs of burn out, I think it is always helpful to spend some more time getting reconnected with the “why” behind what you do.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am a part of my local chapter of Entrepreneurs Organization, and I was in the Accelerator Program, which focuses on business just beginning to scale. Our first facilitator, Scott Fritz, was there throughout all of Scenthound’s key moments and set up the learning necessary for me to get where I am today. One story in particular was on our “strategy day,” where he told us to think about the biggest barrier you have. That barrier, he said, is actually the solution to your strategy. I realized that our biggest barrier was finding qualified groomers, and there had to be a way to simplify the grooming process. If we changed our services from offering specialty haircuts, we wouldn’t need artists who knew how to groom each individual breed. This ultimately led to the realization that we could offer simple, one-length haircuts and train groomers in-house. Like Scott said, the biggest barrier actually become our solution.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
I think a lot of good companies have good people, good ideas, and care about what they do, but a great company has all of that and more. A great company takes it to the next level and has the entrepreneurial operating system in place, is 100% committed to a single system, and has laser focus on being the best in the world at one single thing. After I determined what in the world we were best at, we used that strength to differentiate ourselves from other groomers. That confidence and innovation is everything. We took Scenthound from good — as a local groomer — to great by becoming the best at offering preventive care to keep dogs healthy and clean. There is a huge difference between the two and that’s what has made us great.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Culture: We say that culture eats process for breakfast. No matter how strong your process or strategy is, you will not succeed unless you build a culture that propels your goals. I believe that culture is made up of only two things: what you reward and what you tolerate. Setting the tone at the top will build a culture that follows your lead.
- Process: A huge part of Scenthound’s development was creating a clearly defined process for how we wanted to deliver our services and run our company. I learned that a strong process is the only way to create a business that is scalable and able to thrive. We at Scenthound have a specific process at each of our locations (we call them “Scenters”) and every action we take abides by these processes.
- Vision: Every great company has a clear and exciting vision of the future. Looking into my future and identifying tangible goals helped me realize that I needed to make changes if I wanted to see them come to fruition. Having this vision will not only remind you of the success you’re working towards, but keeps you on track with your mission.
- Understanding why you exist: Every great company has a purpose. Like I said earlier, a great company is the best in the world at one thing. What was helpful for me was understanding why people needed that one thing. At Scenthound, we remind ourselves that it’s our job to educate dog parents on the importance of routine grooming and make basic care accessible for all dogs. By doing this, we are removing barriers so that people can love and connect with their dogs every day. This purpose follows us everywhere we go and motivates us to continue growing.
- Feeling connected and passionate about the mission that you’re on: We are proud to be improving the lives of dogs and their people. We are all dog lovers at Scenthound, and I know I am personally fueled by the love for my dog, Lucy. She brings my family and I comfort and unconditional love, and we stay connected to our mission because of that love. The thought of helping other dogs like Lucy and other families like mine is easily one of the biggest motivators to make our business succeed.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
If you don’t have a purpose, you don’t have a reason to keep growing. We know that the work that we do at Scenthound allows dogs and their people to love unconditionally without barriers. That purpose is the sole reason we have built such a passionate community, both internally and externally. Having that purpose gives our team the fuel to create solutions and accomplish what needs to get done. We are excited about our mission because we help people practice love on a daily basis, which is a pretty noble mission to be on.
What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
I believe that a business will only grow as much as the leader grows. Anytime I felt like my business was stuck in any way, the first thing I would do is take a look at myself and my personal development. A true leader is never finished growing and will continue to evolve with their business.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
We are always looking at how to better serve the customer and drive more value for them. I learned that you can never lose sight of the customer. This is important always, but especially during a particularly difficult time in the economy. If you don’t lose sight of your customer and continue to provide something that they need, you will continue to grow and thrive, even during difficult times.
This year, we put processes and systems in place to make sure our employees and customers feel safe when they visit Scenthound, and we are making sure to be stewards in our community. Emphasizing these values and putting our customers first has allowed us to remain successful in our Scenters, and has also proven to potential franchisees that we have a recession-resistant model. Overall, our recent success, even during this turbulent time, has helped us sign new franchise agreements for over 20 new locations.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
I think the most underestimated part of running a company is true leadership. There is a huge difference between “doing” leadership and being leadership. While there are so many things that go into creating a successful business, it all starts with how you show up every day. Being authentically yourself and staying connected to your company’s “why” and purpose gets people excited about the mission and drives them to perform their very best. Positive culture and drive always starts at the top.
As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
To increase conversion, great businesses should be providing a tremendous value to the customer. At the end of the day, it’s all about the value curve. If you’re providing a great service or product at a reasonable cost, you are going to get a lot of customers.
Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
One of the most important things is consistency. We have found that our customers trust us because they know that we will deliver on our promises and provide them with reliable and valuable results. This is especially beneficial to Scenthound, as we offer monthly memberships. Offering a reliable service shows the customer why they should continue to keep coming back on a regular basis. Being consistent with our grooming, customer service, and overall experience helps us build positive relationships with each customer (and their dogs!)
Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
I think that business leaders should always be putting themselves in their customers’ shoes. It sounds simple, but really understanding what our customers were looking for helped us as a company provide them with the solution. Education is extremely important, especially when offering a service, and we have found that the best customer experience is one that is educational and helps them understand the immense value that you are offering them.
What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
There is always a risk that comes with social media because the Internet gives everyone a megaphone. We believe in our team and our brand, but every company at some point comes across an unreasonable person or someone who is never going to be satisfied. I think that the best thing to do while remaining engaged on social media is to reply in the most authentic way possible. We are very transparent and if there is ever a problem, we are happy to address it professionally. Because we have built such a strong community, our social media engagement is overwhelmingly positive.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
One of the biggest mistakes I made, in the beginning, was believing my own narrative. Many new business owners go into it thinking “this is exactly what we’re going to do” or “everyone is going to love this,” and they don’t take into consideration other viewpoints. While you need to believe in yourself, be careful in trusting your own narrative too much. You need to seek feedback and be open to the possibility of another narrative or perspective.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would have everyone in the world get a pet. Pets show us the way. They help us pause, connect, and practice love every day. They teach us many important life lessons about unconditional love, patience, and kindness, and I think that everyone could benefit from that.
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!