Episode 7: Chris Braund and Karen Van Sickler

Early 2020 promised to be the year newly minted entrepreneurs Chris and Karen would break through in their business Pampered Pets Inn. After spending most of their careers in the corporate world as project managers, they were thrilled to apply the principles of leadership, process and controls to a business that was just waiting to take off. Then the corona virus swept in and shut down the travel business. Almost overnight, they were forced to pivot on a dime and face realities no entrepreneur wants to face. Listen in this episode about how they evaluated the unfolding situation, navigated their emotions and made their decisions in this active and fluid environment.
Karen Van Sickler is co-owner of Pampered Pets Inn, the Lake Norman area’s premier pet resort and spa offering boarding, daycare, bathing and training services. Before devoting her energies to transforming a local business in 2016, Karen was an IT executive with AmerisourceBergen in the pharmaceutical industry.  Prior to that, she was a management consultant, where she had the opportunity to lead technology and business teams through multiple transformational change and growth opportunities. Supporting organizations across the US and Caribbean and in a diverse set of industries, Karen brings a focus for building collaborative relationships and efficient process design to every endeavor she is engaged in. In her spare time, Karen loves a good CrossFit workout, mountain bike ride, or contemplative afternoon in the yard tending her plants.
Chris Braund is the co-owner of Pampered Pets Inn alongside his wife Karen.  He’s been a computer programmer, a regional manager for a pest control service, a partner in a global management consulting firm, a town manager and part of a group that founded and built a public charter school.   Each of these experiences required building, fixing or transforming something…and then moving on to build new skills.  When he’s not working, he enjoys time in the mountains climbing, skiing, biking and hiking.  His latest project is the buildout of a custom camping van for his and Karen’s adventures with their dogs. 
Additional subjects and links 

Key topics:

  • Dealing with uncertainty
  • The difference between luck and strategic preparation
  • Honing perception to get the best data, where to give weight to news and information sources
  • Balancing the different concerns – like staying open or closing based on the business they had, serving customers vs maintaining safety around not spreading the virus
  • Listening to the external drivers to work through the pros and cons
  • Preparing for the “cone of possible futures” as we come out of the early days of the virus
  • Every day as an exercise in disaster planning – for example, 50% reservations canceling on a day to day basis, while new bookings were coming on
  • Balancing the responsibility of being there for the pet parents
  • Keeping quality high with reduced staffing – which is essential to maintaining their brand
  • The difficulty in deciding to temporarily cease operations
  • Staying in contact and referring business to other businesses
  • Creating a “maintenance mode” to take care of the building, fish, a pool so that they have a business to come back to
  • How the staff stepped up to curtail their hours, propose projects for the interim and care for each other
  • Managing the guilt for not being there for both customers and staff
  • Taking advantage of the downtime to improve the business during the window of opportunity, like updating processes and documentation, solidifying best practices
  • Thinking through the strategic opportunities for expansion and preserving what they have for whatever the new normal looks like
  • Staying in touch with customers while they are temporarily closed
  • The potential for opportunities to grow with downward pressure on commercial real estate
  • How they have navigated second guessing their decisions
  • What is the best collection, collaborative way to make the public policy decisions
  • It’s the small things that create the most problems – like mosquitoes kill 1 million people a year
  • Getting their minds wrapped around getting real with making the tough decisions
  • The value of allowing the 7 stages of grief, like anger, denial and so forth.
  • How resetting goals can get help redefine success
  • Using your comfort zone to leverage strengths
  • Looking for silver linings and what will be better
  • Celebrating the small wins
  • Balancing the strengths of your partners
  • Coming out of this better than ever
  • Understanding the value of infrastructure and what makes all of our economy possible
  • Building trust with customers

Show links