When I learned that Pet Butler, a franchise in the pet services space, was purchased by Spring-Green Lawn Care, I had two immediate thoughts.
- This sounds interesting. Especially since Spring-Green was already in the service business.
- I bet the marketing will be good. That’s because when I worked with Spring-Green in 2012, helping them set up and provide content for their blog, I got a taste of their Direct Marketing prowess.
That said, I’ve been tasked with helping them get the word out about Pet Butler. And quite frankly, it’s not going to be that challenging, because:
A. I have real-life experience with the company behind Pet Butler, and I know, like and trust the team at headquarters.
B. I love pets, especially dogs, and like all pet-lovers, I spend a lot of money on my pets. And I’m always open to spending more on pet products that I think Bear will like, along with pet services that will save me time so I can spend it on the important things in life…like car rides!
(That’s me and Bear taking a car ride)
Pet Spending Statistic: The annual American Pet Products Association (APPA) report on pet spending found that overall spending in the U.S. pet industry increased 4.4% from 2017-18 to $72.56 billion.
What Does That Statistic Mean For You?
It means pet owners spend a lot of money!
Accordingly, if you’re interested in matching your love of pets-especially dogs, to a business that provides a much-needed service to pet owners all over the U.S., you need to add Pet Butler to your list of opportunities to explore. And one of the best ways to do that is by learning about the company behind Pet Butler
An impressive 40-year old company, that, through it’s finely-tuned and proven marketing programs, is already changing the lives of current Pet Butler franchisees who had no idea that marketing of this caliber even existed to help them grow their businesses.
What follows is my interview with Ted Hofer, the CEO of Pet Butler.
Pet Butler: The Acquisition
Me: First off, why did Spring-Green Lawn Care decide to buy Pet Butler?
Ted Hofer: In 2015 we set a course to become a multi brand franchisor. With specific criteria in mind we sought a service-based model that would allow us to leverage our 40 plus years of operating experience and our industry leading direct marketing programs. We were very fortunate to know the owner of Pet Butler, and in great part because we shared similar values, we were able to negotiate a scenario that would work for both parties. Perhaps nontraditional in nature, we became a franchisee of the system before we bought it. This allowed us to really understand the model, evaluate its strengths and weaknesses and prepare our transition plan. In 2017 we acquired the franchise system and went to work on refining and adding the needed systems to prepare the brand to relaunch and being its expansion once again.
More Statistics: According to a recent pet owners survey, there were approximately 89.7 million dogs owned in the United States in 2017. That’s 20 million more since the beginning of the survey period in 2000. And when it comes to pets, dogs are considered to be the largest market segment, fueling majority of the growth in the pet market.
Me: Did you bring in any pet industry experts to help you learn about the business? If so, what are some of the things you learned?
Ted: We did. Before we bought the franchise system, we engaged an industry consultant to educate us on the history and trends in pet retail, ecommerce and in the pet services space. We also investigated several other pet services in advance of the acquisition to help us understand if there would be an opportunity in the future to expand the Pet Butler’s service offering. The consultant was extremely helpful in shortening our learning curve.
Pet Butler Franchise: Adding Systems And Resources
Me: What changes have you implemented (since taking over Pet Butler) that are having a powerful impact on the franchise organization?
Ted: I think the overarching theme would simply be the resources that we were able to bring. This comes in a lot of ways, but we had two years as a franchisee to help formulate our opinions on what needed to be done. The company owned franchise “our sandbox” has become our testing ground for everything. Equally as important was the creation of a franchise owner leadership group. While as a system we didn’t feel that we were ready for a formal National Advisory Committee like we have with Spring-Green, we needed to identify a group of leaders within the organization that could help us prioritize the opportunities in front of us. This group remains extremely helpful. I also think this group was thrilled to see us further invest in marketing solutions, new service exploration and of course the needed technology enhancements to the application that runs their businesses.
Pet Butler Franchise Interview: Wins
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Me: Can you name one or two things you’ve done that are directly impact your franchise owners in a positive way?
Ted: There have been a series of wins for us, but the #1 priority coming in was to build cost effective customer acquisition programs that would allow a franchise owner to profitably scale the business from an owner operator model to a multi truck operation. I am happy to report that the marketing investment by existing franchise owners has increased by 30% each year over year the last two years, so that is a good indication we are doing the right things to help franchise owners achieve success.
(New Pet Butler franchise owners!)
A significant initiative within our marketing success was the introduction of an annual marketing planning session. We meet with each franchise owner to review their marketing tactics and provide analysis on their performance. We then integrate this plan into their business plan which allows them to utilize their history essentially plot their future. This seems like a no brainier but there is a lot of work here and it has been our experience that it is necessary to give the franchise owner confidence in where there money is going and why they would want to continue their growth.
Get The Facts About Owning A Pet Butler Franchise!
Prior to our acquisition the marketing execution was left to each franchise. While local marketing and community involvement remains a critical component, we felt that there was an opportunity to improve the overall targeting of pet owners through the digital and direct mail channels. We have taken this responsibility in house along with all local listing management and while it is a big investment on our part, it simply needed to be done to ensure franchise owner success.
Lastly, through the planning process we realized what the impact of a heavily front-loaded spring marketing program has on each owner’s cash flow. We created a no interest marketing finance program which allows a franchise owner to borrow the money from us, invest in their spring programs and then repay it over the entire year. While this may seem beyond the scope of the franchisor’s responsibility, it was needed to help restart a significant number of franchise owners who wanted to participate but simply did not have the needed capital to invest. Having multiple years of building confidence in our programs (and the data to support it) the risk is minimal and conversely, we are now re-energizing a franchise system that has otherwise been fairly dormant.
Pet Butler: Strengthening The Brand
Me: What makes Pet Butler different than other companies that provide poop-scooping services, from both a customer’s perspective and a would-be franchise owner’s perspective?
Ted: Leaning on some of our learnings for our lawn care business, we felt that it was appropriate to professionalize our brand while still staying true to the fun and quirky personality that the comes along with our services. After all, you can’t take yourself too seriously if your primary service is scooping poop! Naturally we revisited our brand standards on trucks and uniforms, we also professionalized our email and collateral templates and began creating value added content that we share socially around pet wellness. We contracted Dr Lisa as Pet Butler’s resident pet wellness expert. “Doc” as we call her, is a licensed veterinarian and she has added a lot of credibility to the brand and give a reason for our active and prospective customers to connect with us socially.
While already a strength of the brand when we purchased it, we also increased the training and added additional dedicated contact center representatives to address all customer questions, make sales, schedule service and handle all billing related items. This is a big value for franchise owners. Franchise owners essentially outsource their front end and back end to us. This services is built into the royalty so there is no extra cost and we feel it is a core strength that allows franchise owners to focus on servicing the customer, build out their teams and achieve their vision of being a multi-truck owner.
Pet Butler: Shhhh
Me: Are you considering adding on any other pet services your franchise owners can offer?
Ted: We have introduced two new services in our company owned franchise and are working through the operational needs, marketing programs and technology required to prepare for a national rollout.
Pet Shuttle – This is fairly progressive idea. (think Uber for pets) While this service is poised to meet the needs of the millennial pet owner, it also provides the franchise owner with instant credibility with local groomers, vets, daycare facilities and more. With a shuttle service we essentially added a Business to Business component to our model. Pet Butler can help these pet services business owners grow their clientele. They love that we can shuttle pets in and out and they immediately know which of their existing customers’ need our service! They are also very willing to help promote our business as it beneficial to them. We believe that this service will growth with awareness and as we develop our urban model and international model that it will play a much bigger role.
Pet Sitting – This service is certainly the most natural to add on. There is essentially no overhead to add this service and once you have an active customer base the marketing cost in also minimal. A franchise owner can establish a highly professional team of pet sitters that is independent from their team of scoopers and scale the business as demand increases.
Pet Ownership Statistic: Three quarters of all Millennials own either a pet, and see their pets as the first step in forming a family and easing into parenthood. In fact, 82% of Millennials polled said that pet ownership should come before parenthood because it better prepares them for that next step. More
Pet Butler Interview: Educating Pet Owners
Me: Does Pet Butler support and or participate in pet education, like the importance of spaying and neutering pets?
Ted: We encourage franchise owners to find local events and organizations that they can participate with. Locally in our company owned franchise we have partnered with Spay Illinois. Spay work directly with a large percentage of the local rescue groups and offers discounted spay and neutering series as well as discounts on medication that may be needed. The have a 100% Spay and Neuter initiative that we support through event participation, cross marketing and by hosting vaccination events for them in our facility.
Pet Butler: Partnering With Local Pet Rescue Organizations
Me: Do Pet Butler owners get involved with local rescue organizations? If so, how and what do they do with them?
Ted: This is a very mission critical part of the local marketing programs that we train and support. We believe that the consumer has many choices and when there is a strong social mission that they can connect with and support (in varying ways) they will choose us. Each franchise owner is encouraged to work with one local rescue group per month sharing their mission and story as well as promoting the adoption of a featured pet in need. The ripple effect of this is significant. It helps a Pet Butler franchise establish its identity in the local community, it affords them the opportunity to work with some of the most wonderful and committed people in the industry and it provides the opportunity to have a business that also makes an meaningful impact on society.
Pet Butler: From Ted Hofer To You
Me: Is there something prospective Pet Butler franchise owners should know about the business…something that isn’t in a brochure or on your website?
Ted: While I am aware of my potential bias… I don’t think you will find a better franchise opportunity in the pet service industry that has the anywhere close to support we have. Our 43 years in franchising has allowed us to bring an adolescent franchise system very quickly into a world class organization. Our franchise fee and total investment is extremely low for this level of support and we are excited to find the right strategic partners to help us expand our brand. Timing has never been better in the pet industry and we feel that we are the best franchise opportunity for anyone interested in furthering their passion for pets into a business strategy.
Me: Finally, is there something you’d like to add?
Ted: I would like to thank Spring-Green for allowing and affording us the opportunity to acquire and build the Pet Butler brand. Pet Butler’s current and future success draws from a culmination of wonderful people within our company and the many influential people surrounding it. As I enter my 22nd year in franchising, I have worked with a lot of great mentors, vendors, consultants and franchise owners. I have been fortunate to have a very influential peer group and it has never failed to support me. I feel like we are building Pet Butler together and that all of our past experiences have only strengthen the opportunity in front of us. Those around me may hear me preach about the strength of franchising being in the Collective Knowledge of its franchise owners, staff, vendors and more. While this is a pillar of strength for Pet Butler and Spring-Green, equally importantly it is inherent in the franchise community. I don’t think we would be as prepared to drive this brand without some great influence and support from those around us. Thank you to all.
Me: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Ted.
Go here to learn more about the Pet Butler franchise opportunity, so you can combine your love of pets with a business you can own that provides much-needed services to pet owners in your own neighborhood.