Glenn Polyn//October 1, 2022//
Glenn Polyn //October 1, 2022//
Over the course of the past two-plus years, workers have reevaluated their lives, and many are quitting to find more rewarding jobs, taking career sabbaticals or starting their own businesses. They’re no longer tolerating bad bosses, inequities, burnout and lack of purpose and meaning at work. They are demanding to be supported and seen by their employer. In their point of view, they don’t need your job anymore. In today’s business environment, you need them to want to work for you.
Many companies have doubled down on what their research tells them actually matters; trust, respect, purpose and community. And that appears to be paying off. Those organizations have landed on Pet Age’s inaugural Best Places to Work list, with savvy companies going beyond perks to create aspirational workplaces. They have fostered a culture of inclusion, purpose, genuine listening, caring and empathy.
Based upon participation with the Best Places to Work survey from fellow BridgeTower Media firm Best Companies Group, the 2022 Best Places to Work honorees are determined from none other than their own employees.
For nearly 20 years, Best Companies Group has specialized in identifying and recognizing great employers to work for. The independent research firm’s surveys provide actionable, hard-to-obtain data that companies use to improve employee recruitment and retention.
After all the surveys were received and processed, the top places to work in the pet industry were determined. What follows are the top five honorees for Pet Age’s 2022 Best Places to Work.
1 BSM Partners
No. of employees: 27
BSM Partners is focused on making the pet industry better for pets and pet parents. Its clients rely on BSM Partners to help them bring to market products that are healthy and safe.
The company is rooted in the pet industry with its founders, Nate Thomas and Seth Kaufman, who have accumulated decades of experience in everything from formulation and engineering to operations and finance, prior to offering their expertise back to the industry in the form of consulting services. BSM Partners started off with its first practice being product innovation services, then adding additional services as client needs have changed since 2009.
BSM Partners hand picks every member of its team. Team members soon realize they are highly valued, and BSM Partners operates with a phone-call-away policy so that every person knows that all they have to do is reach out to get the support they need. Because the team is fully remote, it makes it critical that team members interact with each other on a regular basis via virtual team meetings to connect on firm updates, important topics, training and even fun, casual conversations. As a company representative explains, the culture is one where individuals care enough to “be there in every way possible for our BSM family. When your job doesn’t just feel like a group of people you work with/for, but rather a family that works together for the greater good of our clients and the pet industry, that’s what makes this firm the top place to work for in the pet industry, according to its employees.”
BSM Partners was already operating in a remote work environment prior to COVID, which provided it with a competitive advantage because it didn’t have to pivot and change its ways of operating and interacting with clients.
“We were able to continue supporting our clients via web meetings, email, phone, and text as we were doing prior to the pandemic,” explained a BSM Partners representative. “While travel was restricted for a period of time, making manufacturing facility visits or important client-facing meetings difficult, BSM’s team was able to provide remote support via FaceTime and web meetings to minimize the disruption.
Employee empowerment is important to the founders of BSM.
“With every business decision, we always ask ourselves if this is a company we would want to work for,” explained Thomas. “If it’s nothing something we can live with then we won’t ask it of our team. We have worked since day one to make sure every team member has a voice and feels empowered. This is very important to us. That’s why we collaboratively built an environment where our consultants, among the top minds in their respective fields, are excited to work with our clients and flourish professionally. We have found that team members appreciate our commitment to their growth, which stems from everyone’s entrepreneurial spirit and energy that remains strong within our firm.”
2 ZIWI USA
Overland Park, Kansas
No. of employees: 25
ZIWI’s history is rooted in innovation and determination. The story of ZIWI Peak begins in Mount Maunganui in 2002 with its founder, Peter Mitchell. As a passionate free-range deer farmer, Mitchell supplied top quality meat to pet food companies around the world. But he was disappointed to discover his pure and natural raw ingredients were being blended with inexpensive carbohydrates, like grain and potato, to form less nutritious, highly processed kibble.
According to a ZIWI representative, Mitchell was confident that he could do better. This sparked an idea. What if he could combine the nutrition of a raw diet, with the convenience of ready-serve dry food? And so began his two-year journey of trial and error in a small test kitchen, developing a completely new way to capture the health benefits of a raw diet, naturally. A ready-to-serve food with no fillers, binders or artificial additives. He eventually created what is today known as ZIWI Peak and “over the past 20 years, we’ve been proud to produce premium quality pet food from our own kitchens in New Zealand that are enjoyed by pets around the globe.”
When it comes to its staff, ZIWI is a place that has embedded its culture into everyday life at the office. As kaitiaki, guardians of the land, sea and its creatures, ZIWI makes it a priority to embody that principle in and out of the office, whether that be through volunteering at local pet shelters, picking up trash in our community or donating to our local foodbank. ZIWI places sustainability and philanthropy as major priorities for the company, making it a very rewarding cause to be a part of, which its employees take to heart.
On top of the goodwill that is done, there has been massive growth within the company with ZIWI doubling its office space in the U.S. What started as a deer-farmer with a dream, turned into a global business operation that has increased in product offerings, sales, partners, kitchens and team members. The team is passionate about its mission of providing peak nutrition without compromise with the brand’s products, and there is a sense of pride in being a part of the journey for the global innovator in air-dried pet nutrition.
With regards to COVID, the pandemic took place while ZIWI faced an increase in demand for its product. Therefore, the company had to quickly adapt its processes and safety measures to best support its team members. ZIWI quickly implemented working from home for its non-essential employees and made sure to keep things fun and interactive with such activities as weekly games on Zoom and other team building exercises. Since returning to the office, employees now enjoy more in-person team building activities and outings to strengthen their bond.
“We’ve strived to create and foster an environment where we live out our core values of kindness, integrity, will and ingenuity, or — as we say — the KIWI values, for a nod to our New Zealand home, each and every day,” noted Tyler Maneth, ZIWI’s vice president of marketing. “These are pillars to each individual on the team as well as the full organization that signify, respectively, we focus on being respectful and caring, honest and trustworthy, we persevere and don’t give up, and that we are resourceful and innovative. From our hiring process in identifying not just the talent but cultural fit of including the values to annual awards recognizing team members who fully embodied the characteristics of the values, we truly live these out daily throughout all activities of ZIWI.”
3 Nulo Pet Food
No. of employees: 53
Nulo, the brand whose name is a portmanteau that combines “nutrition” and “love,” has roots going back over 20 years when its founder Michael Landa was running one of the nation’s largest at-home pet care businesses based in Los Angeles. On the front lines of feeding tens of thousands of dogs and cats, Landa noticed an increasing demand for sitters who could administer insulin shots to his client’s pets. A biomedical engineer by education, Landa believed that the source of the pets’ diabetic conditions was the direct result of low-meat, high-carb, high-glycemic diets.
It has been important for Nulo to focus on the right demographic as an emerging brand.
“As a former All-American swimmer, I understood the importance of premium nutrition and how it impacted my performance in the pool,” said Landa. “And, of course, I apply this philosophy to my own dogs’ lifestyles, as well. We found out rather quickly that consumers living healthy, active lifestyles also appreciate high-quality nutrition for their pets. They have the ‘get it’ factor that attracts them to our brand.”
As Nulo’s story evolved, the company has organically attracted a diverse team of Olympic ambassadors, including swimmer Michael Phelps, who ultimately invested in the brand. As Landa notes, “It’s been a different approach for a pet food company, and we’re having conversations with athletes who understand what high-meat, low-carb, low-glycemic probiotics mean.”
The company’s leadership is quick to accept that “Nulo is not for everyone, and everyone is not for Nulo.” However, one thing the company has learned is that if you take passionate people who have a strong work ethic, low tolerance for drama and, as Landa puts it, a “love to win, and hate to lose” mentality, that creates a winning combination for both parties.
“In many respects, working for Nulo is like being on a winning sports franchise,” said Landa. “We all care deeply about the brand, about our mission and about each other … You don’t go to Nulo to skate by. People looking to grow, to feel self-actualized and who want to be part of something special thrive working at the company.”
In many ways COVID became a cultural equalizer – ultimately defining people’s quality of happiness, success, satisfaction and fulfillment. These traits in people have far more to do with what they create in perception, thought and attitude than anything to do with circumstances and situations. If we sat back and allowed people’s fears and apprehensions define our response, we recognized that if the ship went down, we were all going down together.
As awful as COVID was, and is, people make conscious decisions every day regarding how they treat and interact with co-workers, managers, employers, friends and family members. Nulo saw a measurable divide in this regard, and this forced the company to stand by its convictions in terms of its response to the pandemic and to accommodating a new normal in terms of work life, flexibility and preserving the winning culture that Nulo worked so hard to build.
Today, Nulo’s culture has never been stronger and its work force never more aligned on winning and having fun while doing so. The staff has become tighter knit than ever in the post-COVID era, instituting regular Thursday afternoon “Yappy Hours” with their pets in the office, and work-from-home Fridays. It has made all the difference in terms of attracting the right type of talent as Nulo positions itself for future growth and success.
Several factors have allowed Nulo to consistently outperform over the past decade, from its premium nutritional platform, disciplined channel strategy and business integrity and, of course, its ability to attract talented people. But the real key to our success is the heart and soul of our people.
“I believe that the best companies win on two dimensions,” said Landa. “First is having a unique personality based on the set of shared values that we have collectively. Second is our will to win and the high-performance standards we set for ourselves. By instilling this disciplined culture, I’ve tried to encourage our folks to make the right decisions and to advance the business performance without a ton of explicit direction. We all work super hard, and to do anything else would be like letting your family down.
“Being clear about expectations, aligning our leadership team, holding people accountable, ‘walking the talk’ and finding time to communicate and celebrate victories are all things I do on a regular basis,” he concluded. “I strongly believe that our winning culture – the force that determines how our people behave when no one is looking – is a significant competitive advantage for Nulo and gives us an invaluable edge that’s truly special and lasting.”
4 W.F. Young
East Longmeadow, Massachusetts
No. of employees: 42
At W.F. Young, the love its employees share for their pets inspires it to push the boundaries of what’s possible for animals everywhere. As a family-owned and operated business fueled by a passion for helping animals thrive, the company has been at the forefront of the animal wellness industry since 1892.
According to a company representative, W.F. Young’s success comes from its pride in a commitment to quality, transparency, integrity and unmatched customer service that has helped it grow to become a world-wide leader in animal health and wellness. In short, the company “believe[s] in a future where all animals are able to live life to the fullest and are excited to continue our legacy as pioneers as we reimagine animal health across the globe.”
At W.F. Young, we’re not just advancing animal wellness standards, we’re reinventing them – all made possible by the dedicated members of the W.F. Young team. Every day, each member of our team comes to work knowing that they will make a positive difference in the lives of animals around the world. Their passion for this purpose fuels a fire to learn, grow, and achieve – both personally and professionally. They are challenged to think differently and encouraged to bring their ideas and expertise to every conversation where they are valued and respected. Their opinions matter and so do those of their peers. Ideation, creative solutions, and even failing are supported and give everyone confidence to keep reaching. The value of teamwork and building partnerships to serve the greater good is placed above all else and creates outcomes that drive everyone forward while advancing animal healthcare. It’s hard work – changing the status quo always is. However, our team goes beyond individuals working together for a common goal – we are a family – the W.F. Young family. We gut it out together and share laughter, tears, failures, and triumphs. We are there for each other day in and day out. From “worksgiving,” barbecues and the amazing homemade bagels from the office mom, we break bread and build community. By supporting a healthy work-life balance, offering a comprehensive wellness program, and respecting the multi-faceted lives of our team members, we build healthier employees and families. With dog play breaks, trips to the local stables, and volunteer days at local animal shelters, we stay connected to our purpose to enhance the lives of animals. By working together to achieve our mission, our uniquely talented team leaves work each day knowing that they make life-changing impacts on people and their pets.
Since 2020, W.F Young views its was able to successfully adapt to the changing world created by the COVID pandemic by focusing on its people. First and foremost, the company took proactive steps to help safeguard the health of its team. Adopting work-from-home options, flexible schedules and reducing transmission risks at the office were some of its earliest efforts and, as new information became available, the company adapted its plans to stay on top of the latest developments.
In addition, the company deployed new communication tools to help its teams stay connected to each other in a world dominated by virtual meetings. Outside of the office, the brand made sure to stay connected to what its customers needed and how they were feeling. Making sure they had the products they needed and supporting the ways they were most comfortable shopping was key. According to a company representative, it shifted its resources to support online shopping for customers, whether they wanted to pick up curbside at their favorite retailer or have products shipped to their doors. As customers became more tuned in to the health of their pets, the brand enhanced and pushed out content to help them learn more about such important topics as anxiety, digestion, joint health, hot spots and more.
W.F. Young’s workforce, and its clients, have flourished under the company’s culture of putting people first, listening, learning and leaning into its strengths. This strategy has enabled it to not only overcome the changes brought on by COVID, but to thrive and grow. The company routinely checks in with suppliers to understand the challenges they and their teams are facing and how W.F. Young could work with them to keep products flowing and to continue to develop and launch products that their clients needed as well as would enhance the health of pets.
“At W.F. Young, our culture is a critical component of our success,” said the company’s president, Jaime McKinley. “The foundation of our culture is alignment across the organization for our mission to enhance the lives of animals by making the most trusted and innovative animal health products in the world. Connecting our mission to our CARE values is what sets us apart. CARE is an acronym that stands for collaboration, accountability, respect and enthusiasm, and these values embody the spirit and aspirations of our company.”
“We are very proud to have built and continue to champion a culture that empowers creativity and continuous improvement while focusing on how our products help animals live happier and healthier lives,” she added. “This unique culture has allowed us to build trust and a strong sense of teamwork for everyone in the company. We also believe if we live by these CARE values and take good care of each other, we in turn become better caregivers for the animals and our pets that we cherish so much.”
5 Outward Hound
No. of employees: 77
Outward Hound is a Prospect Hill Growth Partners Portfolio Company that is an award-winning innovator, creator, manufacturer and distributor of the quality toys, games, gear and feeders for dogs and cats. Founded more than 20 years ago by Kyle Hansen, Outward Hound’s mission has been to enrich the lives of pets and their families worldwide with innovations that deliver happiness. Outward Hound has always had an entrepreneurial spirit with a focus on product design, innovation and execution while empowering and trusting its employees by valuing their work and encouraging work-life balance.
According to a company representative, Outward Hound provides employees with opportunities to make an impact; every employee has the opportunity to make a difference. The company’s leadership is open and engaging so that employees are encouraged and comfortable in collaborating at every level within the company.
Regarding the pandemic, Outward Hound has always been “nimble with a heavy e-commerce focus. We already had systems in place to allow us to react quickly to the pandemic and, with our data-driven strategy, it was an easier transition. We’re not afraid to make quick decisions and adapt to get ahead of disruptions in the market.”
According to Jared Mosher, CEO of Outward Hound, work-life balance has been a key part of his company’s culture.
“People who are happy and engaged outside of work tend to come to work more engaged during their working hours,” Mosher explained. “Being passionate about our mission and values also helps motivate people. Offering continued development opportunities through tuition reimbursement and a comprehensive benefits program helps makes our culture second to none. Seeing the impact their role has on the company helps them understand how vital they are. Doing employee surveys and making changes based on their needs or desires shows how we listen and value everyone at Outward Hound.”