As The Very First K-9 Resorts Franchisee, Andy Lubalin Has Chased His Passion For Pets And Helped Grow The Luxury Brand Name.
Having known K-9 Resorts Daycare and Luxury Hotel founders Steven and Jason Parker since they were neighborhood dog sitters before the doggie daycare concept had even formed, Andy Lubalin’s desire to follow the Parker brothers’ path into the pet care industry was in the back of his mind from the start of his career. Andy attended Penn State University and earned a degree in economics with a minor in business administration. He then worked for 15 years in software development, and business was thriving. However, Andy’s job duties required a significant amount of travel, to the point where he would be gone for weeks at a time and was missing big moments in his wife and kids’ lives. Like many people who decide to start their own businesses, Andy’s excessive travel and corporate life made him want to become his own boss and chase his true passion in life: taking care of dogs.
Andy’s desire for the industry ultimately led him to become the very first franchisee in the K-9 Resorts network. We had the chance to catch up with Andy to find out more about how he’s doing and why he chose K-9 Resorts.
Why did you pick K-9 Resorts?
Five years had gone by since they opened K-9 Resorts, but I had yet to take a tour. When I began looking into a career transition, I went on the tour and met with the Parkers afterward. I knew right away that it was the perfect fit for me. The facility I toured was immaculate. I didn’t smell anything, didn’t hear anything. Plus, I felt like we saw eye-to-eye on life and the big picture, so the corporate culture was the icing on the cake.
What was your perspective about franchising prior to joining?
I asked the Parkers if they would consider consulting me on how to open my own pet care business. They essentially said, “Funny you should ask,” and told me that they decided to start franchising and therefore couldn’t consult. They asked if I would think about opening the first franchise instead. That’s when I did all my research on the franchising industry. What initially led me to the Parkers was that I wanted a consultant – but, I quickly realized I wanted that because I wanted to gain insights on what they’ve already learned through their experience, and that is exactly what franchising is.
What is the top thing you think people don't understand about franchising?
It’s hard for me to say because I was the brand’s very first franchisee, so I didn’t get the same benefits as someone might get later down the road. They already had a proven system of one location, but I knew I would still be making a few mistakes on the Parkers’ behalf. As the very first franchisee, I wasn’t starting with the same brand name recognition, so I wasn’t going to start with the same profits right off the bat.
The number one thing to understand when deciding to franchise is while you are your own boss, it’s not your system. The franchisor owns the system. You have ideas, and hopefully you’ve chosen a franchise that’s willing to accept new ideas, but ultimately they already have a proven system that you need to stick by.
I knew this concept was their baby. I knew I would be spending more money by being the very first franchisee, but I also knew that eventually being able to say “I was the first one” would make me proud for taking the risk.
How has being a franchisee changed your life?
I’m both busier and freer at the same time. For instance, I can go see my son play baseball whenever I want, and if I want to take off for the World Cup soccer game (which I did!), then I’m free to do that. But while I have those temporary freedoms, I’m still working 365 days/year, on vacation, when an employee gets sick and so on. At the same time, I know every single dog that comes into our facility – that’s more than 1,000 dogs that I know by name. It’s truly a passion of mine, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision.
What types of other brands did you look at?
I only looked into pet care brands because that’s the industry I wanted to join. I toured facilities such as Dogtopia and Camp Bow Wow, but nothing I looked at came remotely close to what K-9 Resorts offers. I hated seeing warehouses, chain link fences and ultimately, unhappy dogs. I ended up choosing K-9 Resorts because not only was it the best, truly cage-free daycare, but I also didn’t want to compete against this brand that I grew to love in my research.
Why should someone buy K-9 Resorts?
My advice for someone looking to buy a franchise is to look for a product that is superior. No matter what industry you’re in, if your concept isn’t always improving and trying to be the very best, someone else will come along and do it better. K-9 Resorts is honestly incomparable to anything else – our cleanliness, level of honesty and customer service blows everyone away. If someone opened the exact same facility right next door to me, I wouldn’t worry one bit. That’s how confident I am in our concept.