Wearing Our Politics on our SleevesMarch 25, 2016
The other week, a pet parent responded to the Pet Camp San Francisco newsletter with the following comment: “Please keep in mind, not all of your clients are left leaning liberals. Some of us still think for ourselves. Perhaps leaving politics out of your advertising might be a good business decision.” As much as I appreciate this sentiment and understand there is a risk when politics get interwoven with business, I think one of the attributes of a small business is that we can let our (the owner, the community, the employees) values be reflected in how the business operates, and I don’t think our pet parents would have it any other way. Here are some reasons why:
- Dog Group Play: When Pet Camp opened in 1997, almost no one provided group play for dogs staying at a lodging facility (what was called a kennel back then). In fact, the politics of our industry group was such that when Pet Camp decided to offer group play to dogs spending the night with us, we were almost banned from joining the industry group. We took the route to which our views (political or otherwise) directed us because we thought then (and we still think now) that dogs, especially in an urban area, needed to socialize. We’re proud that the industry group politics changed to support our way of thinking.
- Health Care: Long before the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care to some) or Healthy San Francisco, Pet Camp was providing comprehensive health care to the Pet Camp counselors. We didn’t regard this as a liberal or conservative political statement (though we understand that many do), we regarded it as the right thing to do and we think it has helped us retain quality counselors. In fact, Pet Camp currently has 5 counselors who have been with us for more than 5 years, 1 counselor who has been here more than 10 years, and four counselors how have been with us for more than 15 years. This longevity is unheard of in the pet care industry and allows these counselors to develop amazing skills and expertise to the betterment of both pets and pet parents.
- Certified Green: Pet Camp is a certified green business. We were the first certified green pet care facility in the entire country. We’ve done some amazing things to minimize our impact on the environment: solar panels, High Volume Low Speed Fans (“Big Ass Fans”), passive heating, poop to power etc. We know that many regard environmentalism as a political statement and if that’s the case we’re proud to make that statement.
- Retirement Plans: We know that there is a lot of political squabbling and positioning about the future of retirement plans. Our position is pretty simple: we think that that the counselors’ futures will be better if they have a retirement plan, so we have a 401(k) plan and in good years a profit sharing plan too. We don’t know if this makes us conservative, liberal or just smart.
- Being Involved: Pet Camp is active in a wide array of groups in San Francisco. We’re involved in the Bayview Merchants’ Association, the Bayview Business Alliance, the Sacramento Street Merchants’ Association, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and a bunch more. At meetings multiple times a month we speak our minds about what we think is best for San Francisco, even if at times this doesn’t equate to what is best for running a small business in San Francisco. These positions aren’t always left of center or right of center and they are often minority positions. But we firmly believe that being involved and having a dialogue with others who don’t agree with you allows you to develop your own ideas, be exposed to other ideas, and hopefully reach a sound conclusion. If only real politics worked that way!
Frankly, I don’t regard myself as a liberal (certainly not living in San Francisco) or a conservative. Like the commenter, I like to think for myself and make my own decisions: why the hell else would I be running my own small business? I think the decisions I’ve made for Pet Camp reflect my values and frankly, I think the counselors who work here, the pets who come here for day or overnight care, the pet parents who love these dogs and cats, and the environment have benefited from them.
Thanks for reading.