Renuka Salinger grew up on a horse ranch in rural South Dakota and always loved animals. When she was away at college she missed all the animals, so the first thing she did when she moved home was bring a dog into her life.
Now as the vice president of development for Camp Bow Wow a—company offering day camp and overnight camp for dogs—Renuka gets to enjoy dogs every day in her career. In her role, Renuka oversees franchise expansion for the business. In this role, she works with her colleges to grow new unit, additional unit, multi-unit and resale development sales. And, with 2016 proving to be one of the highest years for franchise growth in Camp Bow Wow’s 16-year history, Renuka and her team are high performers. So, what motivates her?
“The franchise owners and dogs are what motivate me every day,” she says. “Seeing them grow and succeed is very satisfying work and keeps me going even when things get ruff, no pun intended.”
Read on to find out what her typical workday looks like, her advice for fellow women climbing the corporate ladder and the importance of customer perceptions. She also shares why it’s crucial for one to make her own opportunities. As an animal lover turned animal care provider franchise lead for a top company, we’d say she knows a thing or two about creating—and capitalizing—on opportunities that fit one’s passion.
I think my success should be attributed to being open and ready for new opportunities. I don’t believe luck just happens; I believe you create it.
We heard you began with Camp Bow Wow as an hourly Camp Counselor 10 years ago! What was your favorite part of that experience, and what was your career path from Camp Counselor to where you are now overseeing the entire franchise sales department?
I was searching online and came across Camp Bow Wow. I was hired at the Boulder Camp as a Camp Counselor and quickly put two and two together that there was more than one of these businesses—and that it was a growing franchise. At the time, the Boulder Camp was owned by our Founder, Heidi Ganahl. I really liked getting to know her and the rest of the corporate support team that came in and out of the Camp.
Within 6 months of starting, Heidi brought me over to the corporate support team, and I was part of our initial team that helped open the first 100 Camps across the country in a two-year period. After five years in operations and training, I transitioned to franchise sales, and I now head that department. If I was asked ten years ago if I would be working for a doggy daycare company in franchising and doing sales, I would have said no!
What sparked your interest in focusing on franchising?
I think most people in franchising will tell you that they kind of fell into it. Most people don’t go to school thinking they are going to graduate and work in franchising. My favorite thing about franchising is working with the franchise owners. The business model of franchising is that you create a business plan that can be easily replicated with correct execution and you find the passionate people to join your franchise to grow your brand.
What does your typical day look like, and how do you go about organizing your day?
There is almost no typical day at Camp Bow Wow other than tons of sales calls, whether it be new unit, additional unit or a little resale work here and there. I structure my days and weeks based on the time of year and how that relates to sales cycles, industry events and strategic leadership functions. In general, I am either at the office Monday through Friday, on the road at events or in-market doing sales visits. In sales, there really isn’t a 9-to-5 schedule if you want to be successful; you have to be available when clients are wanting to speak to you.
What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?
I know in my heart that I am in the right industry with franchising and that I am with the right brand. I feel passionate about what I do in serving our franchise owners and seeing their dreams come to life.
What is a business or career-related accomplishment that you are proud of? Why does it stand out to you?
I am very proud that we won a silver Stevie award this year for National Sales Team of the Year. This stands out to me because we are a small company compared to some of the others that were nominated for this award. Building a world-class sales team is no easy task.
What advice do you have for other women on successfully climbing a corporate ladder?
I firmly believe in the Roman philosopher Seneca’s quote, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” In the past, I’ve had people say to me that I lucked out with Camp Bow Wow and that I was in the right place at the right time. Well, I can’t say that hasn’t crossed my mind, but I also think my success should be attributed to being open and ready for new opportunities. I don’t believe luck just happens; I believe you create it. Most people don’t win the lottery stumbling on a ticket. They go out and buy them. You don’t win a card game if you don’t play.
I won’t lie—it hasn’t always been easy. As a 23-year-old recently graduated from college with an environmental studies major, I had almost zero business acumen or applicable skills when I started. Heidi, our founder, saw my potential to learn and helped me build the needed skills to work in the various roles I moved into. If you want to move up the ladder anywhere, I believe you need to be ready to stretch, learn and grow, and know that it will not always be comfortable or fun. You will make mistakes and fail. You will learn what you like and don’t like. You will learn where your true skills are. I also think to move up the ladder you need to ask for opportunities, and don’t expect them to just be handed to you.
What does your work/life balance look like? Do you feel like you have to separate the two, or do you have more of a work/life integration?
I would definitely say that it is work/life integration vs. work life balance. I think the later term is a myth, because the pendulum continuously swings between slow and peak periods on the job. I attempt to separate the two when I take real vacation, but outside of that, sales is a 24-hour job.
What is a “learning lesson” you’ve had in your career, and what advice can you share with our readers from that moment?
The most difficult lesson I learned (and this was early on) is that your customer’s perception is your reality. When you are working with other people, how you approach issues that arise is key. In a business relationship, like a franchisor franchisee relationship that spans 10 years or more, there will be ups and downs. Knowing when to compromise—and when not to—isn’t always easy. I remember to keep the brand and the relationship with the franchisee or client first in mind. I have learned that good communication skills in any relationship help produce better results, and often times, faster reconciliation.
Where do you see your industry headed in the next five years? How do you see the franchising model growing or changing?
The U.S. pet industry is more than $66B and is predicted to sustain 7% YOY growth for at least the next decade (per IBIS world reports). According to the American Pet Products Association, since 2006, there has been a 60% increase in pet care spending. Although not recession-proof, the pet industry and pet care Industry have shown they are resistant. Our franchise owners performed well prior, during and after the last down turn in the economy, and it demonstrates the evolution in pet ownership and care. People are not leaving their dogs in the backyard anymore. Pets are family members that may even sleep in their bed. Pet owners are looking for quality products and services for their pets, and it has not gone unnoticed.
I think the biggest emerging trends in the pet care industry are related to technology. Consumers are seeking technology advances that make their lives easier as well as delight them. An example for us would be our new mobile texting app, which allows our Camp staff to communicate, send pictures and other updates to clients that are away on vacation or business travel.
Finally, I think there will be more uber-ifcation/Amazon-ing of the pet industry. For example, there are many companies that do pet food delivery and other product deliveries (ourselves included). I see this becoming a growing trend, versus a trip to a pet supply store.
If someone were to say, “I want your job!” then what advice would you give them?
If someone wants my job or something similar, I would say go out there and get it. Connect yourself with the right people, and work hard every day toward your professional and personal goals!
I’d love to grab coffee with: Anthony Bourdain or Matty Matheson chefs.
My favorite purse is: Whatever I am carrying now, which is currently a Rudsack I got in Toronto last year.
My favorite dinner spot is: My kitchen.
I can’t live without: ChapStick.
My favorite way to unwind is: To lay out by a pool or body of water and binge watch Netflix while surfing tumblr.
I feel my best when: I have given something my all, regardless of the outcome.