[quote style=”boxed”]I would seriously consider purchasing whatever building your brick and mortar store is going into. I didn’t and I wish I had.[/quote]
Mark Schottland spent 11 years in the financial services sector with Russell Investments out of Seattle. As a regional director in a “road warrior” culture, he burned out from spending Friday nights in the Atlanta airport. He “dropped out” of the corporate culture and opened a Dogtopia franchise while completing an MBA at Vanderbilt Business School in Nashville, TN. Dogtopia is a nationwide franchise specializing in doggie daycare, boarding, and spa services. In funding the business, he utilized Guidant Financial’s QES stock transaction and unlocked his 401k dollars to start his dream business. Now, after four years, he has managers in place to run his store and is perusing other opportunities.
What are you working on right now?
Now that I have managers to run the dog daycare, I am researching a couple different ventures.
Where did the idea for Dogtopia come from?
Originally, the idea was to create a Holiday Inn for dogs.
How do you make money?
Currently, income comes from our original business, a doggie daycare. It has the great virtue of multiple revenue streams from daycare, boarding, grooming, and spa services. I am very keen on business ideas that produce multiple income streams. It evens out seasonal differences if you can come up with complimentary services.
What does your typical day look like?
If I am running a shift, it is pretty hectic. We’re checking in dogs for daycare from 6.30am until around 11am, managing who gets a bath and when, conducting evaluations to ensure new dogs are comfortable, answering phones. When that rush ends, we’re checking out boarded dogs, preparing meals (feeding 80 dogs can take a while) for the ones staying the night, catching late day baths, answering phones, and cleaning up the facility to do it all again the next day. We’re also handling the fifteen phone calls per day about changing merchant service vendors.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Hard work and action. I believe it is better to be moving forward than planning too much. Not all decisions are going to be right, but every inch forward is an inch toward launch. You also have to get creative. I reached out to Guidant Financial to help with funding because I didn’t want the traditional banking hurdles. They walked me through the QES stock transaction which unlocked my 401k money to invest in my new venture. It was probably the best move I ever made, and I didn’t plan a second of it.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Fewer children and more dogs per family is great for the dog daycare business.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I had a 3 month stint at a bank behind a computer screen. Since I tend to fall apart every day at 2pm for a half hour, I kept falling asleep at my desk (this was before 5-hour energy drinks). I just wasn’t built for a sit-down job.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
When the dog daycare got started, we had a manager in place – that was a mistake. Bringing in a manager should wait until the business has stabilized and can afford a manager on its own sales. If you are starting a brick and mortar store, you are the manager until growth stabilizes. Just prepare for really long days.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I would seriously consider purchasing whatever building your brick and mortar store is going into. I didn’t and I wish I had.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
An online social media marketing venture. It is still a work in progress, but our beta test was disappointing. The idea is jaw dropping to the businesses we have talked to, so we are trying to bring in technical and marketing help for a re-launch.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
As entrepreneurs, there is real money in sites that can link us to angel investors or people willing to invest in start up companies – and not just big venture capital firms. While there are a few sites out there that hit around the target, that is a real need in our community. I would be more than happy to pay a few hundred dollars a year to a service that provided me a way to link up with people who have money to invest – on a local basis. If that exists in my market locally, I don’t know a single business owner who is aware of it.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I would like to see a little accountability in the internet comment/review universe. I understand that the nature of the internet is pretty loose, but I think some people do not understand that the power of a rumor or malicious comment is magnified ten fold by the speed with which email and internet boards travel. It is pretty easy to bang away at a keyboard if you’ve had a bad experience, we all have. It is a good way to help a business improve if you’ve had a bad experience, but I think most times sending those comments to a business can have a more positive effect and my guess is that the business will bend over backwards and sideways to make it right.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I am a nerd for traffic counts. I go online constantly and evaluate changes in traffic counts. Since I am eyeing another venture, I put a lot of stock in those.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
I love the communication that Facebook provides to customers. From a business standpoint, it is a great way to change a slow day (but you have to get it EARLY). I am also a fan of email blasts – but on a VERY limited basis. Everyone gets email spam constantly. I know business owners who say they hate it, then turn around and email blast clients monthly. Makes no sense. We save our communications for specific times and events. We may send out 2-4 email blasts per year. I also live on gotomypc.com. This gives me access to the work computer from home. I don’t have to drive up there for every little thing anymore.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Read something that isn’t business related. Too many business self-help books aren’t good for your psyche when you are knee deep in startup mode, and they’re often targeted more at department heads in bigger shops. If you have gotten to the point of opening your own store, trust your instincts. Business books are often meant to move your business from 60-90 mph. If you are just getting going, sales outrank process by a factor of 1,000 to 1. I think everyone would agree with that.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
I don’t have a personal twitter account. I do like Michael Stelzner’s social media columns, and I always keep up with my local gym in case they are doing something that will help get me off my behind and into the gym. Staying fit is the hardest and most important part of small business management. Sound body, sound mind and all that. Avoid anything political, it is just too easy to get angry.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
I laugh all the time. I got pulled over for gliding through a stop sign by a police officer that brings their dog to our store for boarding. She walked up to the car and we both burst out laughing.
Who is your hero?
General George Patton. The ultimate brigade commander. His belief was to just do and stop wasting time talking and politicking. If you know you will be successful, all the questions and doubts will just go away. It takes a brave and possibly foolish soul to argue with success.
Do all business owners dislike rewards cards as much as I do?
I love the cash back programs and all, but I sure don’t like paying the additional percentage point!
Your business will live without you and your employees will thank you?
They’ll often surprise you by how good they can be. Not taking vacations or time off is a huge mistake.
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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.