Genesis of a Pet Company
At the age of fifty two, having worked with a company for the last 24 years, nearly half of my life, I found myself in need of a new challenge.
I must confess, having been so accustomed to getting up every morning and making my regular journey to the office, I was in unchartered waters and it did take a little getting used to. I now had time to plan, reflect, get back to the gym and … read! Those close to me know this is a miracle in itself.
Yes, I actually found myself picking up a book, as I did have a little extra time on my hands. Not really being a reader—I don’t find reading easy (I think I am a little dyslexic)—I was rather proud of myself as I hadn’t read in earnest for around 15 years, since my Uni days.
I stumbled across a copy of Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. The book had been given to my first born son, Daniel (Dan), from a close friend; let’s call her Jess, for indeed that is her name—a nicer and more caring person would be hard to find.
I found many of the principles and examples Carnegie listed almost biblical. They included:
- Not criticising others
- Being genuinely interested in others
- Remembering names (I so suck at that)
- Being a good listener (I am even worse at that )
- Avoiding arguments
- Respecting other people’s opinions
- Admitting when you are wrong
- Being sympathetic to other people’s ideas
- Seeing things from the other person’s point of view. Phew!
I read all 275 pages, twice! A glutton for punishment you may well say, and you’d be right!
The second read was given to my third born son, Joshua (Josh), from one of his best friends, Potsie. Potsie is an unassuming, quiet but very funny and genuine young man, the closest mate you could ever find in the whole wide world. Potsie, whose real name is Peter, had just lost a small fortune in the 2008 stock market crash. Who didn’t? Well, it was a small fortune to him and he was reading a selection of business books to lift his spirits and get him back on the path to success. One of those books was Donald R Keough’s, The Ten Commandments for Business Failure?
For those of you who don’t know, Donald R Keough was a former CEO of Coca-Cola. He was/is a very smart and seasoned professional and a nice guy as well.
I think its worthwhile listing the ten points Mr Keough shared, as more than one or two were fairly relevant when I applied them to myself, unfortunately!
So, if you want to “fail in business”, all you need to do is:
- Quit taking risks: I must confess I was a little used to playing it safe. I’d kicked some hefty goals over the years and had a formula and technique in place that worked pretty well, so why rock the boat with any unwarranted risk taking? Know what I mean?
- Be inflexible: I learnt this wonderful trait from someone I worked with for quite a long time.
- Isolate yourself: It’s kind of safe behind your desk in the corner office with account managers around keeping you informed and up-to-date. There is no real need to get out and check the marketplace for yourself, after all, that’s why account managers are there, right?
- Assume infallibility: the way I did it always seemed to work well. So why don’t other people just listen and do it the same way?
- Play the game close to the line: in a mostly autocratic environment, rules rule! So there is not much chance to step over the line, even if you wanted to.
- Don’t take time out to think: well there is just not enough time in the day is there? ’You want me to take time out to do what?’ ‘I know the answer right now. I don’t need to waste time thinking about it!’
- Put your faith in experts and outside consultants: well, that’s just common sense! Such a waste of energy and resources? That said, how often we do rely on their advice, counsel and direction, so let’s not be too hard.
- Love your bureaucracy: I always struggled with some of those seemingly senseless rules that appeared to be there just to let staff know, who’s the boss!
- Send mixed messages: well, it’s the entitlement of the General Manager of Sales/Marketing to change his point of view as deemed necessary. That’s part of the GM role and right, right?
- Be afraid of the future: at fifty two years of age, reasonably well known, liked and respected by most, why take a chance? I earned reasonable money and in the main had a good life. No need to take any unnecessary chances.
- Lose your passion for work and for life: you know, that’s one thing that I have never lost. Call me old fashioned –I’m sure many would–I love going to work, I love people and I love life.
I have had the privilege and pleasure over the last 20 plus years to meet so many people in the pet industry, domestically and internationally. I learnt at an early stage in my business life that friendship and business can mix and I have made numerous longstanding friends along the way. I know more millionaires than you can imagine, and you know what, I am not one of them! Not yet anyway–still a work in progress!
I am fortunate to have had a career that provided me with a sound commercial platform and knowledge.
I have come to the realisation there are many companies operating that do not embrace Carnegie’s and Keough’s values. I am determined to be part of a company in an industry I love, where we can put these ever so important ideals into practice.
I was encouraged a few years ago by a CEO to read the Jim Collins book, Good to Great. I didn’t have time to read it (it was all too hard then), so I bought the CDs and listened to them on the way to work. It was an hour journey in the car from where I lived, so I knocked over the book in around five return trips.
Collins and his team did some amazing research on a series of companies that over perform year in year out, in order to determine what characteristics they had in common that made them stand out from the rest and repeatedly deliver outstanding results. I must confess, it is a good read, or in my case a good listen. But, the one thing I remember throughout the book was that the companies that continued to excel, respected and valued their staff and other people in a way that was absolutely awesome. That didn’t mean that staff always got what they wanted, often to the contrary, but people at all levels in these companies were valued, acknowledged and treated with respect and dignity.
The ability to remember what it is like to work on the shop floor, in the office, or the warehouse, I think is often forgotten by managers. These steadfast and true people are the lifeblood and backbone of any organisation. They are the ones that make the ideas happen and the company tick!
People are what companies are all about! People are an organisation’s biggest asset. If there is one thing I know, I know this! Treat people with respect, value and acknowledge their contribution, and you and your company will be well rewarded– personally and financially. Your company will be truly great, and people will want to work with and for you. I heard the term used once, “willing volunteers”, and that’s just what you’ll get.
My son Daniel, who I just love and respect, had said to me so many times over the years, (as he has a real passion for business, caring for people and unashamedly making money), ’Dad, when are we going into business together?’
I used to say, ’we’ll get to it, Dan!’, and year after year would go by with no plan or action. You know why? I was in the middle age comfort zone and upon reflection; I didn’t really have the confidence to take the risk due to the uncertainties involved.
I really believe there is a purpose for everyone on this earth, even though sometimes we can’t see it at the time, and then life suddenly gives you an unexpected shove.
So you know what? When yours truly failed to embrace Daniel’s repeated pleas, he started a small enterprise himself anyway!
Way to go Dan!
Daniel bought some pet products and cold called on a variety of retail market stalls, small supermarkets, and pet stores selling the merchandise he purchased. And guess what? What he bought he sold, the lot! So he went back for seconds and thirds and he has been selling ever since. You just can’t keep a good man down!
That’s how Daniel, my first born son, started selling products into the Australian pet market. He is truly the Genesis and founder of our new company, Kazoo.
Acknowledgement for this new Australian pet enterprise goes to Daniel and also to his younger brother, Phillip.
My second born son, Phillip (Phill), at the age of 22 years, had saved enough to backpack around the world for seven months, had completed a marketing degree and released an awesome music CD (he’s the drummer and co-song writer). After many nights of rigorous debate and kicking names around, Phill conceived of Kazoo.
Phillip plays in a band and works part-time in a music store where he is surrounded by many different instruments. A Kazoo is a fun and quirky musical instrument, and when played, creates a unique buzzing sound that brings a smile to just about everyone in earshot. The fitting thing is, anyone can play a Kazoo, and just about anyone can care for and love a pet.
Pets so often add value to our lives. They cause us to smile and be happy with their continual quirky antics and mischievous loving behaviour.
Kazoo had the animal, zoo, connection and it was a fun name too. The name Kazoo fitted perfectly with where the company was to be positioned. Kazoo is also cute and easy to remember, with the catch cry, ’fun pet gear’, because that’s what we want pet owners everywhere to experience, more fun and quality interaction time with their pets.
Pets add happiness and enjoyment to our lives. It is, however, easy to take them for granted, and due to our often busy lifestyles, we unknowingly emotionally neglect them. Yes, we feed them, groom them, walk them (sometimes) and even give them an occasional pat when it suits us, but how often do we really spend quality time interacting with our pets and return the love they daily bestow on us?
You know, having been involved in the pet industry for most of my life, I frequently hear the term, “Pet Parents”. It’s a phrase no doubt thought up by some marketing guru and is used a lot, often I think without giving meaningful thought to what it really stands for.
As a parent to four of the best boys, Daniel, Phillip, Joshua, and Matthew, I know, as I am sure most parents know, just how much time needs to be invested into raising children and earning your parent stripes to truly say you’re a Dad or a Mum–a Parent!
Children are blankey demanding and so are pets! They really are pseudo children in so many ways. Can you imagine what they’d say if they could talk. It might go something like this:
‘Hey Dad, remember when you came home from work yesterday and I ran to meet you at the door, just to say “Hi” and ask “How was your day?” I was so excited to see you! How come you just pushed me aside with your foot telling me to “scoot and get out of your way?” You know how that made me feel? Like a nobody, that’s what! You are my Dad and all I wanted to do was give you a hug and say “Hi”.’
Some may think that is a little melodramatic, but I think this happens a lot in many homes each night, with real pets, real kids, real mums and real dads.
So let’s get back to the original point, what Kazoo is all about!
If you had a chance to read the Kazoo vision statement, it is all contained in one short sentence. Let me share it with you once more:
“We will inspire and empower our Krew to create awesome products, enriching lives and relationships between pets and their owners around the world.”
Kazoo is firstly about genuinely valuing and appreciating our people, we call them the Krew. We know we have great people at Kazoo and we will do everything we can to create an environment that will inspire, empower, and motivate them to be great at what they do.
Kazoo is secondly about allowing these talented people to create and bring products to market that will excite, entice and add value to pets and pet owners everywhere. All pet owners, be they a child, adolescent, single mum or dad, or the white picket fence nuclear family, deserve to have access to great products and services for their pets. Many pet owners are time poor and genuinely want to devote more quality time to their pets. We want to ensure all Kazoo Pet Co lines are:
- Represent outstanding value
- Totally fit for their intended purpose
- Are fun and safe to use.
Finally, as a result of bringing these products to market, Kazoo is about enhancing and enriching the lives of pets and pet owners everywhere; making the connection between pets and their owners better!
In my opinion, Kazoo is all about giving. We give of and to our Krew, our customers, our suppliers, pet owners, and pets alike.
Please read our core values as they are our mission and mandate. The benchmark that we will use for every decision we make to ensure we are true to our vision. These core values make us responsible and accountable to deliver on our value promises to our Krew, customers, suppliers, consumers, pet owners and pets!
Kazoo products will begin to appear in the marketplace late 2009, so keep an eye out!
We are sure you will like and embrace the Kazoo product range. It is fun, easy for customers to understand, and represents great value. I am confident each product given the opportunity, can in a small way, help to enrich the lives of pet owners and their pets.
Thank you for reading the Kazoo Genesis. We look forward to serving you in the coming months, years, and decades ahead.
Our Krew are those people who are employed by Kazoo on a full-time, part-time, or casual basis, for the purpose of carrying out business.
- Value, appreciate and recognise that our Krew are the most important ingredient in building a great company
- Encourage our Krew to excel and be the best in everything they do
- Nurture and encourage our Krew to reach and maintain a good level of fitness and well being, enhancing their home and work life
- Respect and encourage our Krew’s ideas and opinions
- Establish a “No Fear” workplace where harmony and mutual respect are the norm, allowing our Krew to be great at what they do
- Offer our Krew every possible opportunity to grow and progress within Kazoo, recognising and rewarding awesome performance
- Have an emotional connection with our Krew by having a genuine interest in them as part of the Kazoo family