Welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview with Neil Gill, the President and CEO of Dogtopia, a remarkable entrepreneur with a captivating story of success and dedication.
In this insightful conversation, we delve into Neil’s extraordinary journey from his Australian roots to becoming a pivotal figure in the pet care industry based in Phoenix, Arizona.
Neil’s adventure began with a mission to explore new horizons in the franchise industry, seeking a sector with vast potential yet unclaimed by dominant brands.
The pet industry in North America presented itself as the perfect canvas. Armed with vision, perseverance, and unwavering dedication, Neil embarked on a journey to redefine pet care, focusing on quality, reliability, and the well-being of furry family members.
Today, with 250 locations across North America, Dogtopia stands as the premier dog daycare brand on the continent.
This interview not only unveils the remarkable achievements of Dogtopia but also offers a glimpse into Neil’s personal experiences and leadership philosophy. Join us as we discover what drives success and growth in the ever-evolving landscape of the pet care industry and how Dogtopia is leading the pack towards a future of holistic dog wellness.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Neil Gill: My name is Neil Gill and I’m the President and CEO of Dogtopia. One of the first questions people ask me is…” what’s an Australian guy doing running a dog business, based in Phoenix, with stores all across North America?”
My answer is always the same. In 2015 I decided it was time to explore my next franchise growth initiative. I was looking for a sector that offered huge growth potential and preferably one that lacked dominant brands that had already defined the sector.
With this charter in mind, the Pet industry of North America stood out. At the time it was fragmented, dominated by unscalable independents and begging for someone to path the way for high quality, reliable and loving care for dog parents.
Eight years later, with 250 locations, Dogtopia is the premium dog daycare brand in North America. On the journey I became an American citizen, so now I’m an American guy, living in Phoenix, running one of the most exciting pet services brands in the world.
A little more about my background. I’ve had the privilege of being involved in the franchise industry for more than 35 years, with international brands such as KFC, and Pizza Hut, and spent more than 11 years at Gloria Jean’s Coffees where we opened more than 1,000 stores across 39 countries.
Franchising is a genuine win/win relationship when it’s delivered with genuine care. I’m extremely proud of our franchisees and the Dogtopia team for the trust and loving services we offer our parents every day. There is no doubt it’s been exciting and exhilarating to be part of Dogtopia’s purposeful growth over the last several years.
We are the largest in the world and currently operate 250 dog daycares across the United States and Canada. We see dogs more than any other brick-and-mortar pet service brand and love being part of a dog parent’s village to help care for their furry family member and provide the necessary exercise, socialization, education and wellness these dogs need to live long, healthy and happy lives.
In the past year, what is the greatest business achievement you’d like to celebrate with your team? Please share the details of that success.
Neil Gill: We recently celebrated the opening of our 200th location and are about to celebrate our 250th location. In addition, The Dogtopia Foundation has raised over $2M on its mission to provide service dogs to veterans, employment for adults on the spectrum, and provide therapy dogs in Universities across the county.
I’m very proud of the fact that Dogtopia is one of the privileged few franchise brands that achieve these milestones and it’s a true testament to not only our business model but the franchisees and their teams who provide amazing care to the Dogtopia dogs and parents.
Quiet quitting, The Great Resignation, are an ongoing trend causing many businesses to struggle to keep talent engaged and motivated. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued, and misunderstood in the workplace. In your experience, what keeps employees happy? And how are you adapting to the current shift we see?
Neil Gill: Develop a brave and transparent culture that’s driven by purpose and leadership owns accountability. It’s also important for each individual to find a work/life balance that works for them, as it looks different for everyone. I’m a big believer in open and honest communication, (I think it’s the Aussie in me) my team knows they can contact me anytime.
We host monthly team meetings with all employees so everyone is across where we stand against our goals and plan for the year. This time also allows for great discussion around accomplishments, challenges or general life updates.
Our workplace has shifted over the last few years, I personally have become much more comfortable with blended work environments. There is no doubt the remote work environment is challenging, and human interaction can help alleviate some of these hurdles, and I think as leaders, we just need to keep working on new solutions every day.
Here is a two-fold question: What is the book that influenced you the most and how? Please share some life lessons you learned. Now what book have you gifted the most and why?
Neil Gill: The book I’ve gifted the most is Leading from the Front by Gretchen Evans. It’s a quick read but an extremely powerful story that will leave everyone in tears.
Gretchen is our Dogtopia Foundation’s ambassador and I gift the book to friends, employees and franchisees every chance I get because her story is beyond inspiring. The grit and tenacity she has after everything she went through is unmatched and it’s an honor to not only know her but have her be part of our Dogtopia family.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as THE real challenge right now?
Neil Gill: Humanity has changed since COVID. I think people are struggling with the rapid change that COVID-19 inspired. The shifting lifestyles, remote work, new technologies, macroeconomics, consumer habits, and human interaction. We are all struggling to find our new normal and settle into our new lives….and I’m not sure if that is ever going to happen.
2020, 2021, and 2022 threw a lot of curve balls into businesses on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past years, how can businesses thrive in 2023? What lessons have you learned and what advice would you share?
Neil Gill: The only constant is change and that has been proven time and time again over the last few years. We’ve all been forever changed by the events and so have our customers. We can’t rely on what used to work. In order to be successful, we must get creative, be nimble, and spend more time understanding our teams and leverage technology wherever possible.
What does “success” in 2023 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Neil Gill: Dogtopia is moving from being the world’s leading daycare provider to being the only genuine, holistic dog wellness company in the USA.
Success for me is when I can sit down with our parents and show them on the Dogtopia App, using science and data, that their time at Dogtopia daycare, the products they have purchased, and the spa services they have experienced have improved the health and wellbeing of their dog, or as we like to frame it, we deliver long, healthy happy lives!!!
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Neil Gill for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Neil Gill or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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