Find the sweet spot between confidence and humility. You have to believe you can get the thing done, but recognize the role luck plays.
Angela Marcus is the founder of Get Your Pet and a life-long animal advocate who wanted to find a solution to the challenges that exist in the animal sheltering system. By empowering both pet guardians and adopters, GetYourPet.com allows pets to go from one good home to another via GetYourPet.com.
Angela and her team are working closely with local animal shelters and have the potential to relieve them of one third of their annual intake, resulting in thousands of dogs and cats from ever entering the stressful shelter environment with the possibility of being euthanized.
Throughout her career, Angela has been involved with virtually every aspect of the animal welfare system. She’s worked as a veterinary technician, a Forensic Case Coordinator for PA’s largest Humane Law Enforcement team, a contributing presenter on Animal Planet and the Operations Director for the Pennsylvania SPCA.
Angela holds a B.S. in Animal Biotechnology and was born and raised in Upper Black Eddy, Pa. She now lives in New Hope, PA. with her husband John, stepdaughter Ruby, son Leo and their rescue pets: five dogs, one cat and six chickens.
Where did the idea for getyourpet.com come from?
The idea for getyourpet.com was born out of firsthand experience. I spent six years as the Operations Director for the Pennsylvania SPCA in Philadelphia, PA. At the time, we held the animal control contract for the city and were taking in over 35,000 animals annually. Only about 60% of them left the shelter alive. Every day, I spoke with someone who said, “I need to find a home for my pet.” We had no options for them, and we certainly didn’t need any more pets at the shelter.
The aha! moment came when I witnessed an interaction between a person who had come to surrender their pet and a person who had come to the shelter to adopt. Turns out, the adopter was looking for a dog just like the one that was being surrendered. The fear in the dog’s eyes and body confirmed everything I already knew. The last thing this poor pup needed was to enter the shelter environment when there was a loving adopter right there, ready to take him home. Transitioning into a new home is already hard enough; why couldn’t we make it easier? I decided then that not only could it and should it be done, but that I should make it happen. If Uber and Airbnb could successfully create a two-sided marketplace, I could pair the complementary needs of people who needed to find new homes for their pets and people who wanted to adopt pets. And, in so doing, we could keep tens or hundreds of thousands of pets from ever seeing the inside of a shelter.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Being a wife, mom, step-mom, dog- and cat-mom and entrepreneur makes for days and nights where anything can happen. (Last night, for example, I almost broke a toe stepping on a Lego at 3am while cleaning up cat vomit. None of this was in the business plan.) But most of my days start with a good, strong cup of coffee, shuffling the family off to their respective places with packed lunches and a kiss goodbye, and then sitting at my computer to get down to work. I always spend the first ten or so minutes of the day organizing my “To Do” list and then I open my email inbox. Some emails I pass off to colleagues, but I personally answer any emails that have come to me directly. It’s what keeps me dialed in to what are users are thinking, feeling and experiencing when interacting with getyourpet.com. I then return to my list, and work through it in order of priority. Nothing feels better than checking something off the list. I stay productive by staying focused on my list, and doing my best not to get distracted. As new ideas pop into my head, I make a note of them further down the list. I avoid social media until “break time,” which I try to take every few hours (it’s usually time to refill the coffee cup or grab a bite by then.) I also concentrate all of our team meetings into one day of the week. For me, it’s a great way to keep everyone on the same page and keep the rest of my days open to schedule whatever else may come up, such as interviews with the media, calls with our shelter/strategic partners, or personal time with friends and family.
How do you bring ideas to life?
It is not something I do alone; I am fortunate to be a part of an amazing team of people that work together to breathe life into the ideas I/we come up with. We meet weekly to discuss ideas that are new or innovative, then we prioritize them. Being a small start-up is great because it empowers us to make decisions quickly and act on them quickly, but it can be frustrating when you have a lot of things to accomplish and only so much money, or so many people, to get the job done. For example, something may come up this week that trumps last week’s number one priority, but I’ve learned that’s ok.
What’s one trend that excites you?
For as long as I can remember, animal shelters and rescues have focused their efforts on finding “good” adopters for the pets in their care. What we are learning as an industry, however, is that there are very, very, very few people who are “bad” adopters. I’m excited to see the conversation changing towards finding ways to help people adopt a pet, instead of finding ways to prevent them from doing so. For example, it is becoming clear that denying someone the ability to adopt a dog will only result in them purchasing one, thus perpetuating the horrific cycle of puppy mills. Now, animal shelters and rescues throughout the country are digesting important studies from leaders in the field, such as the ASPCA, which emphasize that keeping an open mind to the big picture, reducing barriers to adoption and providing resources and education to pet owners are the keys to saving lives.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
It’s easy to allow your business to become all-consuming. It’s even easier when you believe so fully in the work you are doing, and especially when your work is at your fingertips. Since almost everything I do is at my computer or on my phone, it’s important for me to step away from them both to be present with my family and friends. I believe maintaining a solid work-life balance is critical for success, in all things. My daily habit is to walk away from my computer at or around 5 o’clock each day so that I can spend time with my family. I love to cook, so I make dinner most nights, and we sit around the table and talk about the day. I do bath time with my son, read a bed time story and tuck him in. Yes, I may return later in the evening to catch up on a few emails, but those hours away are just what I need to recharge. Sleep sometimes suffers, but anyone with young children gets used to that pretty quickly.
What advice would you give your younger self?
The title of the book “Be Here Now” by Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) pretty much sums up the advice I would give my younger self. As far as we know, we only get one shot at life, and as I get into my mid-30’s, I realize how finite our time on this planet is. When I was younger, I was always so eager to get on to the next step. Finish school. Get the job. Get the job done. Get a promotion. Yada, yada, yada. But honestly, impatience and a conviction that one is immortal are features of youth. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have listened to my future self’s advice.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
There have been studies that show that people who are successful believe they themselves are the reason for their success, that they are entitled to it. I believe luck plays a tremendous role. I’m lucky to be a relatively young, Caucasian woman in the USA in the 21st century. Take away any of those factors and the trajectory of my life would almost certainly have been very different. Of course, I work hard and am determined, but lots of people work hard and never get ahead. If we are honest with ourselves, we need to be humble about our accomplishments.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Put it all into perspective. When I look at our growth numbers, I always want to be doing more than we are doing. I’m eager for growth not only from a business perspective, but because of the animals’ lives that rely on our success. It’s my good fortune that a member of our team will usually point out the big picture. “Last year in the entire month of February, we did 9 adoptions. This February, we did 24 adoptions just today.” It’s easy to get impatient, but if you’ve got a solid idea and you work hard and you capitalize on your lucky breaks, success will come.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Editing. Saying “No” to things that don’t fit with your vision or your brand. It’s easy to get excited when other companies want to partner with you, or other time-consuming opportunities come along that seem like they might benefit you. I always ask myself, “Is this going to help us get more pets adopted?” If the answer isn’t a resounding “Yes!” then I politely decline or ask to revisit the opportunity in a few months. This strategy has helped us stay focused on our mission of helping people and pets on ever larger scale.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I took too long to get getyourpet.com off the ground. I kicked the idea around for years before I finally got fed up and went out and found help to make it happen. Generally speaking, I’m a pretty can-do kind of person, but either I was lazy or intimidated by the scope of the undertaking and the idea lay dormant for a long time. It took my kicking myself in the butt and seeking help with the business plan and financing to finally begin to realize the idea.
But you know — and it may be that this is just letting myself off the hook — it may be that the timing and circumstances just jelled when they had to. I’m not sure that 7 years ago we could have afforded the technology our interactive site uses. Who can say? But success begets success and I am more willing now to believe that there isn’t much our team can’t do.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
My husband is a veterinarian and owns a veterinary hospital. I have an office at his practice and work out of there once or twice a week for a change of scenery, so I overhear conversations. Get Your Pet also has relationships with thousands of veterinarians. The thing I hear over and over again, from my husband and our participating vets, is how the hardest part of the business is finding experienced, qualified candidates to fill open positions. I think creating a two-sided business that focuses solely on providing a solution to this problem – connecting skilled veterinary professionals (veterinarians, technicians, assistants, receptionists) with those looking to hire on a short-term or long-term basis – would be immensely helpful.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I believe that the greatest gift you can give someone is your time. It holds an enormously high value, so when the holidays roll around, I don’t look to spend big chunks of money on items, but try to find ways to spend time with the people I love. I recently spent $100 on tickets for the most important women in my life – my mom, grandmother, and aunt – to spend the day with me learning to make cheese at a local cooking school. It was one of the best days I’ve had in recent memory.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I recently discovered Evernote’s Scannable app on my iphone. It’s a game changer for when I’m at a conference and am collecting handfuls of business cards. One quick scan and I’ve added the person to my contacts in my phone and email. I can make notes about following up, if needed, or connect with them on LinkedIn.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
One of the first management books I ever read is Jim Collins’ “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t”. I think it’s a must-read for all entrepreneurs. The most important takeaway for me is Jim’s definition of Level 5 Leaders; basically asserting that the quality and nature of leadership of successful companies is most frequently a combination of intense determination and profound humility.
What is your favorite quote?
“Dream big. Start small. But most of all, start.” – Simon Sinek
I love this quote because I believe everyone has a great idea at least once in their lifetime. But without that first step, it’s only that – a dream or an idea. Whether it’s jotting down some notes, drafting your first business plan, launching the first version of your website or doing your first adoption, you can’t be successful without a “start”.
- Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The idea needs to be solid. The planning needs to be thoughtful. But don’t wait for things to be 100% before you get started. Things will change, no matter how comprehensively you’ve tried to prepare for them ahead of time. You will adapt.
- Find the sweet spot between confidence and humility. You have to believe you can get the thing done, but recognize the role luck plays.
- Know your brand and stick to it. Don’t chase everything that glitters.
- Try to find a balance between life and work. Most entrepreneurs are driven by their work, so, for most of them (us) this means don’t forget to live your life, enjoy your friends and family and colleagues while you are pursuing your mission. Be here now.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.