When Brian Burton and Sarah Fraser, a married couple, started Instinct Dog Training over ten years ago, their vision was to provide help and hope for dogs and their caregivers through quality care and positive-reinforcement training. In a way, they’d end up doing the same for their staff and customers—with the help of Trello.
Although Brian and Sarah were both in different fields at the time, they saw an opportunity to combine his project management skills with her marketing background and passion for dogs into a meaningful business. Together, they not only built a successful nationwide franchise, but also an impressive operations platform built entirely on Trello that saves time, provides crystal-clear visibility, and ensures the best dog-gone experience for their four-legged and two-legged customers.
“Trello will play a huge part in our scalability. It will help us not only maximize the potential of our team, but also scale with heart.”
Since Instinct was founded, it has grown into a multi-million-dollar Inc 5000 franchise, with multiple locations in New York, New Jersey, California, and Oregon. The company’s goal is to expand to 30-50 locations, which would serve thousands of dogs and employ hundreds of staff members.
To reach these aggressive growth goals, the team needed an easy-to-use, standardized system for operations management. Brian and Sarah evaluated over a dozen tools, and ultimately chose Trello because of its ease of use and open API. These features would allow them to use Zapier, a simple automation tool that connects apps to each other, to integrate Trello with Instinct’s CRM, online scheduling app, dog boarding software, and email. That way, all their systems could work together as a single operations platform.
“So far, this platform has saved the Canine Care Team 10-20 hours per week, the Training Team 20-25 hours per week, and the Client Services Team 25-40 hours per week.”
As Brian connected all of Instinct’s apps together in Trello, he started to see how this new automated system would benefit everyone, easing the burden of many tedious administrative tasks to free up the team’s time. It would help the Canine Care and Dog Training teams deliver faster, more consistent care; make it easier for Client Services to provide dog owners with great service; and increase visibility for the leadership team.
Let’s look at some highlights from a day in the life of three employees: Molly on the Canine Care Team, Aaron on the Dog Training Team, and Trish on the Client Services Team.
6 a.m. Molly arrives at the facility and opens Trello on her phone to see an auto-generated list of daily operations tasks. As she goes down the list, she drags cards into the “Completed” column. If a task isn’t required or purposely wasn’t completed, she drags the corresponding card into the appropriate list and leaves a comment with details. That way, her manager can proactively resolve potential issues, such as understaffing and training gaps.
9:30 a.m. Aaron welcomes Buddy the boxer to his fifth training lesson. After the lesson, Buddy’s owner receives an automated, personalized survey, and selects the “SOS” option to let Instinct know she’s struggling. As a result, a card is automatically created in the “Programs At Risk” Trello board so the director of behavior and training can work with Aaron to help Buddy get back on track.
10:15 a.m. Trish starts working on a batch of welcome letters for new training customers. After Trello cards are automatically created for each new dog, Trish assigns a trainer to each pup and drags the cards into the “Training” list. This action triggers an email to the owner with more information on training, a bio of their assigned trainer, and notes about what to expect during the first lesson.
11:30 a.m. Duke, a golden retriever, and Roxy, a daschund, are dropped off for boarding. Molly checks them in to Instinct’s boarding system, and a Trello card is automatically created for each dog in the “Playgroup” board. When playtime starts, Molly opens the boarding system to learn more about Duke and Roxy’s personalities, preferences, and friends at the facility. She drags Duke’s Trello card into Playgroup 3 so he can play with other big, active pups, and Roxy’s card into the “Individual” list since she doesn’t play well with others.
3:30 p.m. Bailey, a husky in boarding, starts coughing. Molly opens the “Dog Sneezing or Coughing” board for directions on what to do: quarantine Bailey, take her temperature, call Mom, and make a vet appointment. Later that morning, the vet clears Bailey to stay, so Molly brings her back and lets Mom know she’s fine.
4:30 p.m. Trish takes an inventory of supplies and adds a few items to the “Supplies Needed” board. She also sees that Brian moved a few items she requested to the “Approved” list and that the supplies her co-worker ordered are now in the “Arrived” list.
5:30 p.m. Bailey’s mom is scheduled to arrive home from vacation tonight. Molly checks her Trello and sees a card was automatically created reminding Molly to give Bailey a bath before Mom picks her up.
By the end of the day, Instinct’s Trello-based operations platform has made life better for every person and pup under their roof.
Ready To Play With The Big Dogs
“As you scale, you need visibility, accountability, and organization. Trello has provided that for us.”
Before Brian implemented this system, he noticed tasks falling through the cracks, bottlenecks between employees and leadership, and inconsistencies in canine care. These challenges weren’t critical at the time, but he knew they’d get worse as Instinct grew.
“When you’re a small company, you can get away with having a small team who does everything. But as you scale, you need visibility, accountability, and organization,” he says. “Trello has provided that for us.”
As Instinct has grown from one location to five, Brian and Sarah have leveraged Trello to create repeatable, yet customizable workflows and systems that save time on tedious administrative work and keep employees focused on care and service. “So far, this platform has saved the Canine Care Team 10-20 hours per week, the Training Team 20-25 hours per week, and the Client Services Team 25-40 hours per week,” he calculates.
While the cost savings are already massive, they’ll grow exponentially as Instinct opens dozens more locations in the coming years. Brian says Trello will not only help the team stay organized as they grow, but also ensure they’re providing quality care and a personal experience.
“When you look at the sheer volume of our work as we grow to five locations, it’s pretty amazing. We’re looking at 250,000 dog walks per year, 30,000 hours of playtime, and 125,000 meals per year,” he explains. “Trello will play a huge part in our scalability. It will help us not only maximize the potential of our team, but also scale with heart.”
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