Last week I attended the 2013 Twin Cities Business award banquet for the most successful small businesses in Minnesota. I was honored to have been invited as a trusted advisor by one of the honorees, Bob Hartzell, of Chuck and Don’s Pet Food Outlet. Bob is a Charter member of one of my Vistage CEO Peer Advisory Groups, and I am proud to have him in our group. It was fun to hear how they had leveraged an initial $250 investment in one store 22 years ago, into a thriving and fast growing chain of 24 stores in Minnesota and Colorado. (Click here to read their brief success story.)
But it was even more gratifying to hear Bob’s partner, Chuck Anderson, attribute much of their success to having clearly articulated core values to guide their decisions and mold their culture. Everyone talks about values, but few know how to use them to run their business. This is something my Vistage members have focused on, and Chuck presented several examples in his acceptance speech of how it has helped fuel their success.
The three core values he highlighted were a “passion for pets,” “customers first,” and “commitment to community.” These are not just words on a website or a banner — they are core values around which they make business and hiring decisions. Here is how.
- Passion for Pets – Everyone who works at Chuck and Don’s loves animals, and over 90% of them have pets of their own. Their business cards have pictures of their own pets on them. Customers are encouraged to bring their pets into the stores and their employees know many of them by name. I have heard customers say that employees know their pets better than they do, and that they are incredibly helpful not only in helping them buy the right products, but also in solving their pets’ training or behavioral issues.
- Customers First – Employees are encouraged to spend as much time with each customer as needed to help find solutions to their problems. They log customer purchases at the cash register so that they can help other family members of the customer pick out the type of food their pet typically eats. Employees even carry out heavy bags of dog food to the car for their customers. Chuck and Don’s has a remarkable customer loyalty program that rewards their best customers with the greatest savings.
- Commitment to Community – Chuck and Don’s is an active sponsor of service dog and rescue organizations, donating over $150,000 per year. Their policy to encourage pet adoption and not sell pets in their stores is another example of their commitment to the rescue community. They also look for store locations in areas that have a strong sense of community, and I have seen them pass on high traffic locations that they felt lacked a community connection.
Congratulations Bob, on being selected as one of the most successful small businesses in Minnesota and thank you for providing such a great example of how use core values to align your organization and grow your business.