Enplug Interviews: Erika Kavanagh on DogVacay Company Culture
DogVacay is an online community with more than 20,000 vetted and insured pet sitters across the U.S. and Canada ready to care for your pet in their home or yours. Enplug talked with Office Manager Erika Kavanagh-Stein, who is in charge of cultivating the DogVacay company culture.
Company fun fact: 89% of DogVacay employees’ pups are adopted, and employees volunteer together at NKLA, a no-kill shelter in Santa Monica.
What’s the best way to describe DogVacay’s culture and people?
We have a mission: We want to create a world that is “better for pets, better for people.” Our culture is a mission-driven group of dog lovers who want to create a world where all pets are deeply loved and cared for. We’re focused on building a great product, providing top-notch customer service, and we want to have fun while doing it all.
What’s the most unique aspect of working at DogVacay?
We are obsessed with pets, so it would be impossible to not include the dogs. We have dozens of dogs in the office every day so our breaks consist of tossing tennis balls, playing tug-o-war, and (of course) lots of belly rubs!
Who does DogVacay hire? Who would make a good culture fit?
When we think of who would make a great fit at DogVacay we think of 5 key attributes:
1. Personal pride in work: We all care about the products we put out and the customer service we deliver; you can see and feel this when you walk through our offices and meet our team.
2. Adaptability: We are constantly improving and changing, so you have to be able to roll with the punches – we believe change is good!
3. Proactive: We believe in our team members’ abilities and ideas. We want them to feel empowered to put their ideas into action.
4. Problem solvers: There is no manual for what we’re doing so we are constantly finding creative solutions to succeed.
5. Team players: After all, we’re all in this together!
How does employees’ happiness contribute to a great customer experience?
Happiness is contagious. We believe in treating our team members like the valuable, critical parts of our mission that they are.
We feel there is a direct correlation between happiness and our customers’ experience. We are proud to say we consistently hear that we have team members who care, are passionate, and will do whatever it takes to continue making DogVacay great for both our hosts and guests.
As DogVacay has grown, what challenges has your company faced in maintaining its culture and managing internal communication? How do you address those challenges?
With more than 100 team members, the biggest challenge we’ve faced is effective communication. To address this we have monthly “All Paws” meetings to ensure we’re being transparent in terms of our goals, priorities, and general updates from each department. We’ve also formed initiative-based teams, which allow us to work smarter by enabling cross-departmental collaboration. Another great thing we’ve done is creating a weekly success newsletter to inspire, motivate and remind us of our mission and why we’re all working so hard each day.
What role does employee feedback play in improving upon your culture and company as a whole?
We’re only as good as the people we have, and we care deeply about their suggestions related to the company and culture. In addition to several suggestion boxes, we also do an annual culture survey to collect feedback and ideas and have a group of people dedicated to trying to make every suggestion a reality!
What rewards, incentives or perks does DogVacay offer its employees?
Where to begin! We have a gorgeous office in sunny Santa Monica where you can find our team members at their standing desks working on either a MAC or PC (depending on preference) while dogs are hanging out under desks or playing on the couches. We provide a fleet of company bikes so our team members can head to lunch together and explore our wonderful neighborhood.
We take pride in our team and what we do, and want to tell the world about it. Every team member (including the dogs!) gets a great swag bag when they start so they can represent DogVacay.
We offer dog-walking services for our four-legged friends and a generous employee discount on DogVacay services for their parents, as well as discounted pet insurance.
We have a fully stocked kitchen and snack bar, fresh juices and smoothies delivered weekly, and lunch twice a week that varies from customized lunches through EAT Club, and restaurant pop-ups from local favorites like Baby Blues BBQ, and visits from popular food trucks! We also offer free nightly dinners for our dedicated night owls.
We’ve partnered with local business to offer employees discounts on everything from dog grooming to food to bikes – we’ll even buy you a bike if you fall in love with the company bikes and want to commute on your own.
We like to celebrate! We bring in treats for company anniversaries and birthdays and have monthly happy hours so we can all spend time together. There’s even a corporate Uber account so everyone gets home safely.
All of this is in addition to what you’d expect from a company; competitive salaries, generous medical/dental/vision, 401(k), etc.
What qualities are essential in any company’s leadership or executive team to ensure a healthy, happy culture?
Our leaders are passionate; they are 110% committed to our mission and want our team to succeed together. They’re also approachable; they aren’t sitting in offices all day. You can frequently find them around a whiteboard brainstorming with their teams, or chatting with new team members at the communal picnic tables. I also think it’s great how appreciative they are. Our executives make sure that hard work does not go unnoticed at DogVacay.
What’s the single most important thing to your company culture and success?
Focus. We make sure to set goals every six months to help drive the company forward. Our goals are aggressive – they make us uncomfortable, but they also inspire us to dream big. We also make sure to celebrate our wins with our “Best in Show” program, which highlights our team members who set big goals and worked hard to achieve them. These team members inspire the rest of us to set even bigger goals for the future and do what we can to achieve greatness!
What do you love most about working at DogVacay?
I really love our “High Paw” board, which allows for peer recognition. I think it’s an amazing way to show gratitude towards my fellow team members for their inspiring contributions. It builds such a sense of camaraderie when we can easily say thank you to each other.
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