In today's world, authenticity counts. Whether you are pursuing a new job, new love interest, or a new business relationship, you are counting on the other person to be honest and genuine. But humans can be complicated, and not always what they seem. Actual authenticity can be hard to find. That may be why so many people prefer dogs.
Greg Liberman, a YPO member and Former Chairman and CEO of Spark Networks, dedicated 10 years of his life to helping people find authenticity in relationships through sites like JDate and ChristianMingle. Now as CEO of PuppySpot, a service that connects dog lovers with responsible breeders nationwide, Liberman strongly believes that dogs are much better than people at detecting authenticity. "They can smell it a mile away," he says, and his experience with both species has allowed him to recognize the identifiable paths toward what's really real. Here are the key features of running an authentic business, according to Liberman.
1. Know your mission clearly and execute it consistently.
PuppySpot's mission is to make lives better by placing healthy puppies into happy homes. "That's our North Star that guides the business. Customers relate to it," Liberman explains, "It's also a driving force for employees to reference and be inspired by when making decisions." Sticking to your mission means your people and your audience are spared having to continually guess what you're all about.
2. Don't ask for trust; earn it through transparency and action.
Dogs are not the only ones who suffer when confronted with confusion and misinformation. There's a lot of that in the puppy industry, too. Anyone who has heard the term "puppy mill" knows it can be tough to find a dog from a responsible, humane source. Liberman expands, "In the name of building trust, we post every single customer review - good, bad or neutral - on our website for all to see. It's integral for prospective customers to see and hear from others who have experienced your service first-hand and can vouch for a company's reputation." Liberman also found reviews a tremendous source of internal motivation for company members...not unlike striving to be the person your dog thinks you are.
3. Create a team based on integrity.
For Liberman, this insight grew from his experience of running matchmaking services for people. "At JDate and ChristianMingle, we worked to take the stigma out of online dating and make those brands household names. Part of that was finding those people committed to the business and making sure it remains true to its mission, even when that might be hard to do." He brought that belief into the world of matching dog lovers with responsible breeders. "I firmly believe that a company is all about the people who work there. As a result, it's not surprising that building an authentic brand starts at the top and from the inside out. I have been lucky enough to have worked with some great people during my career and, at PuppySpot, I was able to bring several key, loyal team members with me when I started. I knew these leaders would always look out for the best interests of our customers, breeders, puppies and one another," he says.
4. Live the brand experience first-hand.
Liberman can attest to the value of personal experience: "Like tens of millions of Americans, both my daughter and I suffer from allergies and are limited in terms of the breeds that are a good fit for us. So, when it came time to add a puppy to our family, I truly, and very personally, understood the value of PuppySpot - my 8-year-old daughter was able to find a miniature Poodle named Lucy who matched our family's needs, and it was love at first sight. Being new to PuppySpot at the time, I decided to visit Lucy's breeder in Missouri to see what goes on behind-the-scenes. Touring the breeder's facility and seeing how they devoted their lives to caring for the dogs put the entire PuppySpot experience into perspective for me and further cemented the unique value of what we deliver." Aim to become your own best customer.
5. Meet the needs of all stakeholders.
PuppySpot has many different stakeholders - customers, breeder partners, employees, investors and, most importantly, the puppies themselves. It's easy for humans to overlook the canines in the equation, but the rest of their lives will be affected by their experience with the company. To make sure all parties are comfortable and happy, they have a team available 7 days/week to answer questions and alleviate any concerns. Relationships begin, not end, with placing a puppy in a family. Liberman describes their process: "Not only do we proactively communicate with every customer after a puppy arrives home, but we have also created an online Puppy Center filled with helpful tips and advice for new puppy families, covering everything from training to health and safety. And, the content and resources we create are based upon questions and feedback we receive from our customers." Knowing and communicating with all possible stakeholders provides an immediate boost to your authenticity.
6. Bring in your personal passion.
"A mission is only valuable if your team lives it," he claims. The PuppySpot family averages more than one dog per employee, which demonstrates how a love for dogs permeates the company's every day operations. "We're a community of dog lovers who share a vision for placing healthy puppies into happy homes, and combatting the issues that drive demand from substandard sources."
7. Educate yourself and become an advocate.
When Liberman was considering the PuppySpot job, he was concerned about the dynamics of buying vs. adopting a dog. He had heard a lot of strong opinions and catchy slogans like "Adopt, Don't Shop." When he went digging for facts, however, he was surprised to learn how much misinformation was out there. For example, he learned that, unlike licensed breeders, rescue organizations are largely unregulated by the government. "Above all else, I am 'pro-dog," he says, "And when I saw the data, immediately saw an opportunity to become an advocate for responsible pet sourcing, educating and giving the dog-loving community tools to make their own, informed decisions." The more trouble you take to know the facts, the more your honesty and commitment will shine through.
Each week Kevin explores exclusive stories inside YPO, the world's premiere peer-to-peer organization for chief executives, eligible at age 45 or younger.