The doggy daycare franchise’s founder and CEO says simplicity is key to his company’s operations
Mike Gould understands dogs. Even before the Hounds Town USA founder and CEO opened his dog daycare, boarding and spa business, the former NYPD officer was one of the first members of the department’s Canine Unit. But just as important as understanding dogs, Gould says, is understanding humans and the unique relationship they share with their pets.
Hounds Town USA, which began franchising last year after spending more than 15 years refining its concept and expanding out from its first location in Long Island to markets in New Jersey and Nashville, is built around a core philosophy of respect for the relationship between pets and their owners.
“Pet care is an emotional business,” Gould said. “It’s not like other franchises; we’re not just offering services, we’re protecting an emotional bond.”
To that end, Hounds Town USA prizes straightforward, “no BS” communications over nearly all else, offering simple pricing and all-inclusive services so that customers don’t find themselves paying additional fees for various services to make sure their pets receive the best possible treatment.
We talked with Gould about the importance of simplicity and clarity in franchise operations and why specialization is crucial for operations teams.
1851: What are some of the key operational concerns for any franchise brand?
Gould: A clear mission and objective are essential. If what you are trying to do is ambiguous, or if you are trying to do too many different things, you’re going to have problems. Franchisees especially have to have a clear idea of what they are involved in, the end goal of the business, and how their revenue streams drive that goal. The operations team should be able to clearly articulate the core business model and mission statement.
1851: What are some operational concerns that are unique to Hounds Town USA?
Gould: In terms of clarity, our core mission of daycare can get lost behind ancillary revenue streams like retail, so it’s very important for us to keep everyone on the same page about what our mission is.
Beyond that, because pet care is such an emotional business, we are adamant about taking a very straightforward approach to all of our services and operations. We don’t like complicated. Franchise operations tend to get complicated, and we’re avoiding that at every opportunity. Our clients are regular people who care about their pets. We want to be as straightforward with them as possible, and that starts with our operations.
1851: Are you focused more on individual unit operations or the operations of the system at large?
Gould: I look at it like a chess board. You have to keep all things moving in concert. There’s a lot of strategizing. It’s never just one thing; you’ve got to keep all the pieces moving and coordinated.
1851: If a franchise brand is struggling, where should they look first to improve their operations?
Gould: In my experience, it’s one of those things where you really have to seek out the weakness, whether its sales or customer service or anything else, and then seek out the professionals who can quickly turn that area around. You take any given franchisor, and they may be a brilliant and passionate business person, but they don’t likely have the specialization required to address the specific weakness dragging the business down, and you need to hire help. It’ll cost a little more, but doing it yourself is a penny wise and a pound foolish, and its something you see too often in this industry. It’s always worth seeking out the pros.
1851: What types of specialists do you have at Hounds Town?
Gould: We have a legal team, accounting, a sales force, trainers, admin staff, a digital marketing team and a number of other teams, all with their own specialists in each department. And that’s where the rubber meets the road. As a franchisor, delegation is key. If you can’t delegate tasks out to people who know how to handle them, you can be consumed by them.
1851: What do you wish you knew about franchise operations before you got into the industry?
Gould: I didn’t know quite how much specialization franchise operations would require. We have specialized attorneys, specialized accountants, and a million other specialists. Franchising is a completely unique way of running a business. It seems fairly simple from the outside — you buy a territory, build a team, promote a product, etcetera — but there are so many more intricacies and moving parts behind the scenes