A Tail-Waggin Success: ADOGO Pet Hotels
By Kathy Hosler
Photos provided by ADOGO Pet Hotels
Success can be measured in many ways. For more than twenty years, John Sturgess worked in Operations and Development for several of the world’s top hotels, including Carlson Hotels Worldwide, Hyatt Place, and Doubletree. By all accounts, he had a highly successful career in the hotel industry but something was missing.
His job took him all over Canada, South America, and the United States. When John and his wife, Stacey, went to these places, they would have to put their two Golden Retrievers in a kennel. That’s when John’s idea for opening a pet hotel began to form.
“I did a lot of research,” said John, the Founder and CEO of ADOGO Pet Hotels. “I felt that someone with my background in the hospitality industry and my love of dogs could do really well and be successful with a pet hotel.”
“Eight years ago we opened the first ADOGO Pet Hotel. Today we have four locations in the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota area with care for upwards of 400 dogs per day.”
Success like ADOGO Pet Hotel’s doesn’t happen by accident. Demand for the services they provide is ever increasing and plans are in the works to open even more locations in the future.
John and Stacey share some of the strategies that they find are critically important to anyone who wants to succeed in the pet hospitality industry.
“You can’t be an expert in every area,” John says. “Take your strengths and capitalize on them. Then, seek help from other professionals who have expertise in the areas that you need. Just as with human hotels, location is crucial. The location you choose needs to be in a safe, accessible area that is central to the community. Being near an interstate is a plus. The majority of your clients are within five to ten miles of your facility.”
“You have to get involved in the community, not just in pet related activities, but in marketing and advertising,” Stacey says. “For example, sponsoring local dance teams or high school sports teams and having your business name on their jerseys or on the scoreboard keeps your name and logo in the public eye.”
When people enter the lobby of one of the ADOGO facilities, they get the feeling of walking into an upscale boutique hotel. Not all of the locations look the same on the outside, but there are certain ‘touch points’ that they all have. In every facility the reception area and desk in the front lobby are the same and the ADOGO logo is on the wall behind it.
The main services they offer are boarding, daycare, and grooming. Overnight guests at ADOGO stay in custom designed suites. The Mason Company has designed and installed all the rooms and suites at each location. Every room has its own feeding system and pet locker, complete with the dog’s picture and a document holder. And every dog that boards also gets to attend daycare.
Daycare at ADOGO consists of both indoor and outdoor areas with lots of play equipment and activities. The outdoor areas have water fountains for the dogs to romp in, lots of shade, and comfy K–9 grass. The dogs are separated into playgroups according to their size and temperament and are closely supervised by dog care specialists at all times. Webcams in many of the daycare play areas allow owners to view their pets and see all the fun they are having.
“Successful business owners learn from others. You have to make your clients feel important, and you don’t have to be hi–tech to do that,” share John and Stacey. “For example, we took our daughter, Ellie, to Disneyland. Upon our arrival she was given two buttons to wear. One that said ‘It’s My 1st Time’ and another that said ‘It’s My Birthday’. Everywhere she went, staff members (and other guests) wished her a Happy Birthday or a great 1st visit. To this day, we all remember how special it made her feel.”
At ADOGO Pet Hotels, they do many things that make pets and their owners feel ‘special’. They have a ‘dog of the month’ photo displayed on the walls of their facilities and they are always posting pictures on their social media pages of their clients playing and having fun. Each location has its own Facebook page with lots of followers.
“People are the heart of our business,” John says. “Our people are what make us successful.”
“We have over 85 employees now,” adds Stacey. “When it comes to customer service, a good and caring staff is crucial.”
The Sturgess’s feel that one of the problems in customer service (in any type of business) is a lack of training. That’s why every employee receives basic training before they start working for ADOGO, and also continuing education year–round.
There are three main objectives for every staff member:
- Safety. Above everything else, safety is paramount for pets and for people.
- Attitude. Every staff member must be willing to work hard, get along with other staff members and the pets, and be willing to give their all.
- Respect. Whether they are there for grooming, daycare, or boarding, every staff member is expected to provide exceptional care and service to the guests.
“ADOGO has won lots of awards,” John says. “But, we are always working to improve ourselves and the things that we do. We have an incredible centralized cleaning system in each of our facilities, the latest in air filtration and movement, and we have specialized systems for noise control in our buildings.”
“We are always looking at ways to improve our service offering. For example, we are working on installing interactive webcams in the dogs’ suites,” says Stacey. “They will enable the owners to not only see their dogs, but also be able to talk to them and dispense a treat to them!”
In addition to the ADOGO pet hotels, John also owns RetrieveOne Advisors (retrieveoneadvisors.com), a pet consulting and management company. With his twenty–five plus years of experience in the hospitality industry (both pet and human), he is helping others develop, operate, and manage their pet–related businesses.
“Whether you want your facility to be like the Ritz Carlton for Pets, or if you are more like a Motel 6, be proud of who you are,” John says. “You have to be consistent in everything you do to be successful. Most people don’t like change. When they find a place that they like, they stay with it.”
“You have to take great care of the dogs and their owners,” adds Stacey. “Make your customers happy, comfortable, and wanting to come back, believing that they have received a good value by coming to your facility.”
Yes, success can be measured in many ways; like a profitable business. But true success is more than that. And you can see it in the contented smiles on the faces of John and Stacey Sturgess, as they enjoy watching all those happy, wagging tails!