A Q&A with Christine Schultz, Franchise Development Specialist at Pet Supplies Plus
Pet Supplies Plus is the largest chain of independent pet stores with over 460 stores, and a four-time Franchisee Satisfaction Award winner. They’ve also been named Best-in-Category in the Pet Services sector by FBR for the past two years. As part of our ongoing series highlighting our Top Franchises, FBR’s Client Relations Director, Nicole Dudley, asked Franchise Development Specialist Christine Schultz some questions to uncover what it is that makes Pet Supplies Plus a best-in-category brand, what unique value they find in working with FBR, and how they use the results of their FBR survey to focus their efforts both operationally and to grow the brand.
Nicole Dudley: Why did you choose to work with FBR?
Christine Schultz: We work with FBR because it provides our owners the chance to express their opinions (both positive and negative) in an anonymous environment and allows us the opportunity to understand how our owners actually feel not what we believe that they feel.
Nicole: What does it mean to you to be an FBR award winner?
Christine: Winning the FBR award is our highest achievement each year. The FBR award is based on our owners’ overall satisfaction of being a part of our organization. If our owners are unhappy within our system, they will not have their heart in running their stores, most likely will not hit the benchmarks they set for themselves and, ultimately, will not validate well with our franchise candidates. We firmly believe that we don’t win unless our franchise owners win.
Winning the FBR award is our highest achievement each year….We firmly believe that we don’t win unless our franchise owners win.
Nicole: If someone called you and said, “Why should I do business with FBR?” what would you tell them?
Christine: Working with FBR allows franchisors the ability to quantify how the owners within their system really feel (vs. asking them in casual conversation) and allows franchisors to benchmark each year’s scores vs. previous years’ scores and industry scores.
Nicole: How do you and your team use the data from your FBR survey to drive your strategic planning? How is it shared with your team?
Christine: Each year we present the FBR results to our Senior Leadership Team, as well as how it compares to previous years and the industry average. FBR provides a good temperature check of our owners’ satisfaction/frustrations with different areas of our operations and can aid in how we roll out processes that might relate to those satisfactions/frustrations.
FBR provides a good temperature check of our owners’ satisfaction/frustrations with different areas of our operations and can aid in how we roll out processes that might relate to those satisfactions/frustrations.
Nicole: How the pandemic has impacted your business? Have you made any changes in your marketing or your recruitment strategies based on what you’re seeing?
Christine: Oddly enough, Pet Supplies Plus has benefitted from the pandemic. On the consumer side, families who were now more home bound than ever before realized the comfort and joy that owning a pet can bring. This resulted in our seeing sales rise for pet food, supplies and services. We also experienced an increase in small animal sales. Operationally, we benefited from rolling out our Omni-Channel Shopping offerings, which we implemented a few months early to meet the new needs of our neighbors who were not comfortable with in-store shopping. Lastly, our franchise development team also benefited, as potential franchise candidates experienced economic uncertainty and increased time at home, which made them want to investigate going into business for themselves.
Nicole: 2020 was a difficult year in many ways. Do you have any success stories you can share?
Christine: Yes, Pet Supplies Plus not only had its best year ever in terms of providing our neighbors with goods and services, but it also had its best year ever in signing new franchise owners to join the pack. But the true win was for the pet industry overall, the families that were able to bring a new pet into their lives and, of course, those lucky pets that were brought out of adoption centers and brought into their forever homes!
Nicole: Has working with FBR changed the way your company does business?
Christine: Pet Supplies Plus has always worked with FBR and its findings to better understand our franchisees’ mindsets, how we might be able to alleviate their frustrations, and how we might be able to build upon their satisfaction moving forward. These are all important considerations as we look to grow our footprint with new owners who will be validating with our current owners.
Pet Supplies Plus has always worked with FBR and its findings to better understand our franchisees’ mindsets, how we might be able to alleviate their frustrations, and how we might be able to build upon their satisfaction moving forward.
Nicole: What kinds of opportunities do you offer for your franchisees to learn from or connect with each other so they can see how others are doing things successfully?
Christine: We host a yearly Pet Supplies Plus Summit in which all of our owners, District Team Leaders and Corporate Team members gather for a few days to learn about best practices, innovations within Pet Supplies Plus and connect with each other.
Nicole: Have you made any changes or innovations to your business this past year that will be permanent, post-pandemic?
Christine: Absolutely. Our Omni-Channel shopping option that was implemented a few months early due to the pandemic will now be a permanent shopping option for our neighbors who are not comfortable shopping in a store.
Nicole: Can you describe your franchise culture? How do you foster it among employees, franchisees, and leadership?
Christine: Pet Supplies Plus prides itself on having a very flat organizational structure, which means that every franchise owner has Chris Rowland’s, our CEO, personal cell phone number and can get him on the phone within a couple of hours vs. days. Also, unlike many concepts, our VP of Franchising Nick Russo, is also our VP of stores. This allows for a new owner to build a strong and trusting relationship with our senior team from the very beginning of their journey with Pet Supplies Plus.
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