We caught up with this year’s Customer Service Excellence Award honoree to see how the Greater Philadelphia business community has contributed to their success. Check out what Adina Silberstein Eckman, Founder, President & CEO, Queenie’s Pets has to say as we highlight one of the excellent small businesses driving the Greater Philadelphia region. Join us as we honor this year’s winners at the 37th Annual Excellence Awards on Thursday, November 21.
Where did the idea for your business come from? Describe the moment that you decided to go into business for yourself.
The idea for Queenie’s Pets began long before the company itself existed. I always knew that I wanted to work with animals and that I did not want to be a veterinarian. I was unsure how that would all play out, though I was always a pet sitter “on the side.” After many years in the food service industry, I was great at it, but knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do in the long term. I had a lot of clients already and my “side job” of pet sitting began to get in the way of my “real” job. A friend, who was a professional dog walker down in Washington D.C. at the time, told me I should simply become a full-time dog walker when I expressed dissatisfaction with my current work life. My response was “you can’t make any money doing that!” But he dared me to try … so I did. Three months later, I had 60 clients and I named my company after my nickname of “Queenie” because I was always a strong leader. (Some would say bossy!)
What is your business philosophy and how is it unique?
My business philosophy has several angles. First, as Danny Meyer (the founder of Shake Shack) says, “put your team first and your customers will follow.” So, keeping my team happy, paying them a living wage, offering benefits in an industry that does not usually do so, and generally building a supportive and positive company culture are at the forefront of what Queenie’s Pets does.
Additionally, we are 100% committed to care for animals in a way that is force-free, stress-free, and fear-free. This means that all clients can hire us knowing that we will never do anything with their pets that will cause any stress or bodily harm and we are so committed to this that we are willing to lose clients if they are not on board with this same philosophy. We have an “Ideal Client” scorecard and those not matching our company’s philosophies on any number of levels are referred elsewhere so that we maintain a client base that fits our unique value proposition — and makes us happy! This has kept us successful and profitable for 13 years!
What is the biggest challenge in owning/running a business in the region? How do you deal with the challenges?
The biggest challenge to running a business in this region is twofold. First, there is the challenge that is not unique to our area, which is simply that the landscape of hiring and retaining great employees has changed tremendously over the past five or so years. With the “gig” economy, people want to work for themselves or work for an app, make their own schedules, and change jobs with unbelievable frequency. There is an expectation that the employer is supposed to “make people happy” and the focus has shifted from running a great business to keeping employees happy. It can be very challenging and frustrating at times.
The second challenge, which is more locally-specific, is the challenge that the City of Philadelphia presents in sometimes not being the most business-friendly city. The start-up costs can cause many people to never even be able to open in the first place; additionally, there are many administrative errors that cause a business owner to have to take a lot of time to investigate — causing frequent headaches in accounting or other time-consuming, vital business activities with real consequences.
How we deal with these challenges is to stay educated on the latest trends, laws, and technologies; maintain an excellent leadership team; always check all statements — bank, credit cards, city tax statements — for accuracy; and have phenomenal service providers/vendors to help handle those matters with which we are not equipped to do on our own.
How has the Greater Philadelphia business community impacted your success?
The Greater Philadelphia business community is truly one of the greatest assets to the success of not just my company, but me personally in my business career. It was my participation in/completion of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program in 2014 that completely transformed how I operated both my business and as a business owner and industry leader. I met so many other business owners from the metropolitan area, in every industry imaginable, and we learned that all of us have the same needs, challenges, stressors, and successes — and what we needed was one another to continue to thrive. From the connections gained through that program, my network has continued, and still continues, to grow wider and more helpful. I couldn’t be more grateful for the Greater Philadelphia business community if I tried.
Others will be looking to you for advice about starting and/or operating a business here. What are your top 3 tips?
- You live in a big city but it operates like a small town. Everyone knows one another and cooperation works far better than unhealthy competition.
- Know your unique value and capitalize on it. What makes your business unique is what will make it succeed if you stick by your own set of morals, ethics, and strong company policies that uphold your values.
- Be strong and be kind. Don’t let yourself be bullied by vendors, clients, or employees — know the laws and know your own processes. If you are always fair and do your best to always be kind, your strength will come naturally with everyone with whom you interact.
What does it mean to you personally and/or to your business to be named an Excellence Award winner?
To be named an Excellence Award winner means a great deal, perhaps more than for those in industries that were never known as “cottage.” As a company that was professionally dog walking before dog walking was “cool,” we have always seen the difference between a professional and a lay person. Queenie’s Pets has always operated differently and to the highest degree of professionalism. Yet, even though today many more people understand that professional pet care is a big business, there is still often a lack of respect for what it means to truly be a professional. Many people believe that all it takes is holding the end of a leash. Winning the Excellence Award, a prestigious recognition from a very important organization, that isn’t just a popularity contest award like many are, brings legitimacy to not just my company but to our industry as a whole. Queenie’s Pets proudly accepts the award not just for ourselves, but for the face of our whole industry, and to continue in our mission to have the greater society understand that professional pet care is just as impactful and vital as veterinarians or trainers when it comes to raising a healthy and well-adjusted household of family pets.
Where do you see your business in 10 years?
In 10 years, we envision Queenie’s Pets to be a known entity all over the country and even in other parts of the world. While we do not necessarily wish to open service locations elsewhere, we intend to educate people everywhere in how to be a professional animal caregiver, how to hire one appropriately, how to know what to look for, and how to do it the Queenie’s way for maximum profitability and outstanding results.
Personally, I intend to continue to be an industry leader, encouraging others to run and grow their high-touch, personal service businesses with the height of integrity and the maximum personal satisfaction attainable as a business owner.
What advice do you have for customer-focused companies to better their client relationships?
I would offer that customer-focused, high-touch personal service business owners know themselves first and foremost. Know what your values and business ethics are and what guides you as a business owner. Know your own “why,” and let that guide all decisions you make for your company. If you stay true to yourself, all decisions will be made within that moral compass and your clients will align with you — or they won’t. That is, you will have a client base that likes what your company is about and wishes to support it; if they don’t align with your values to begin with, they won’t be your client. This leaves you with a client base that you love and that makes your life easier rather than more challenging and stressful!
Get your tickets to help celebrate Queenie’s Pets as this year’s Customer Service Excellence Award honoree.
Thursday, November 21
5:30 – 9:00 p.m.