Franchise Fun January/February 2021 Women in Franchising Article

Franchise Fun: Growing the Pack

Dogtopia’s Kim Hamm is passionate about pups, and for the layers of support in Canadian franchising

“Dogs are now members of our families and Dogtopia takes the responsibility of caring for every dog like it’s our own very seriously. Our doggie daycare provides a home away from home for your dog to meet their BFF and play in a safe, open play environment,” says Dogtopia president and CEO Kim Hamm in explaining the Dogtopia concept. “Dogs fill our lives with joy, so it’s time we repay the favour. We’ve introduced daycare 2.0 with a clean and fully transparent environment built around socialization, education, and exercise for pups that enables pet parents to feel comfortable leaving their furry family friends in our care. Dogtopia offers everything your dog requires, and wants, with award-winning dog daycare, boarding, and spa services.”

Dogtopia operates in more than 150 locations across Canada and the United States, and Hamm helped scale the brand and grow the business as vice president of U.S. operations in 2015, being appointed to her current position in July 2019. She says the doggie daycare recently celebrated opening their 17th location in Canada, and were listed as an essential service throughout the COVID-19 pandemic “to provide daycare to the dogs of many essential and frontline workers who were working hard to protect and serve Canadians.”

Here, Hamm shares about her bucket list trip experience before the pandemic hit, and dishes about her love for her own pup, daily exercise, and her favourite healthy(ish) drink of choice. She also reveals who her most positive influence is, the businessperson who changed her life, and her adoration for Canadians, among much more!

The most interesting thing I’ve done recently is… Travel to Africa in early 2020 – amazing bucket list trip!

In its best form, work is… Fulfilling. It’s almost impossible to shut work off entirely in today’s digital economy, but finding the right balance of work/life integration, and doing work that is meaningful and rewarding sustains you through the long hours and the many ups and downs. 

A good franchisee… Is an intrapreneur who wants to go into business for themselves not by themselves, follows the operational playbook, and works hard to grow their business while building relationships in their local communities. 

A good franchisor… Approaches the relationship of franchisor/franchisee with a spirit of partnership and respect.  The franchising model has a lot of unique dynamics that require the leadership team to have emotional intelligence that allows them to engage and collaborate with franchisees, while collecting their buy-in and adoption of the strategic direction of the brand and new initiatives. Both entities do well when this synergy is achieved. 

My top advice for prospective franchisees is… Conduct a thorough due diligence process of the brand and its culture before you sign a franchise agreement. Franchising is a like a marriage: we sign a 10-year commitment to one another and are inevitably going to experience some disagreements along the way.  If you know and trust your partner, the franchisor, who you’re marrying, then you can overcome many obstacles with direct communication, and maintaining an interdependent relationship.

My top advice for new franchisors is… Sustainable growth comes from attaining a balance of growth initiatives and support to your existing franchisees for future validation. If your resources are disproportionately allocated, the fly wheel will stop spinning and can stunt your momentum. 

One of the most enjoyable things to do is… Hang with my pup, Sophie! 

The hardest thing for me to do is… Roll my rrrrrrr’s! Second to shutting my brain off. As a first-time CEO, the wheels are spinning at all times of day and night about ways to enhance the brand and my team’s performance.

My favourite drink is… Kettle One cucumber mint vodka and water. Delish and nutritious…ish.

The person who has had the most positive influence on me as a businessperson is… Peter Thomas. I interviewed him for a school assignment while completing my commerce degree from Royal Roads University and walked out with a job offer 60 minutes later. That interview changed the entire trajectory of my life and Peter has been there for me as a mentor through every stage of my career since. I’m very grateful for the opportunity and positive influence he has on my personal and professional life as a values-based leader.

Canadian franchising is… Being a part of a community. After scaling Dogtopia in the U.S. for the past three-and-a-half years, one of the first things I noticed when transitioning back to Canada was the support and comradery of the Canadian franchise network that doesn’t exist in the U.S. Not only do franchisees have the support of the franchisor, but there is an additional layer of support and resources they gain access to through the Canadian Franchise Association. I love Canadians!

My franchise system began because… As the humanization factor of the dog started to emerge in Canada, we recognized a need for trusted support to pet parents that was being under-served at the time. Dogtopia treats each pup like it’s our own and provides unparalleled levels of support and transparency to our valued pet parents and their pups.

The most positive influence on my life as a person is… My parents. Growing up on a farm in small town Manitoba, a strong work ethic was instilled in me from a young age that has transferred into my professional career. My parents provided me with a strong moral compass that shapes all of my decisions and has influenced my EQ (emotional intelligence) and the style of leader I am today.

The key to success is… Showing initiative to learn and grow, while taking responsibility for your destiny instead of being a passive bystander. Nothing in life is ever handed to us on a silver platter, but recognizing an opportunity, optimizing the platform I’ve been given, and thinking “I am responsible,” have served me well in all aspects of my career. 

My personal motto is… Work hard, play hard.

One necessary item on my life’s “to do” list is… Exercise. It’s my favourite way to clear my head and start my day, getting those positive endorphins flowing! Not only that, but it’s a great way to exercise and bond with my dog, Sophie, who always pushes my pace and doesn’t let me take walking breaks!

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