Shaper: Dean Richmond

Show aired on 26th August 2017

Transcript

Elliot Moss
That was Ray Charles with the brilliant Mess Around. Good morning this is Jazz Shapers, I am Elliot Moss here on Jazz FM. Thank you very much for joining. Jazz Shapers is where you get to hear the very best of the people shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul alongside their equivalents in the world of business. Business giants no less and my business giants and we call them shapers as well. My Business Shaper today is Dean Richmond. He is the Founder and Managing Director or Pet Family and Pet Family is the holding company for a huge empire spanning the world of Pets Corner amongst many other businesses, Dogwood, Doodley Dogs, Great and Small, Greenacres, it goes on and on and you are going to be hearing all about how Dean has built this phenomenal business up from just a couple of stores way back when. In addition to hearing from Dean, you will be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya with some words of advice for your business and as well as all of that of course we’ve got some brilliant music from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul including new blues from Robert Cray, old classic from Louis Armstrong and this from Joyce Moreno.

That was Joyce Moreno, one of the Brazilian greats with, and I hope I say this properly, Meu Piao. Dean Richmond is my Business Shaper today as I billed earlier, Founder and Managing Director of Pet Family; you will probably have heard of Pets Corner, there are over a hundred and fifty stores but there is much more to this business and this man in front of me. Hello and thank you for joining.

Dean Richmond
Hello.

Elliot Moss
How are you doing?

Dean Richmond
I’m okay. A little bit jaded after a busy martini night last night.

Elliot Moss
It’s the best way to prepare for Jazz Shapers I think.

Dean Richmond
You think?

Elliot Moss
Tell me Dean, you took over this, your family business way back when, you were a very, a young man I imagine.

Dean Richmond
I joined just after leaving school. I went to a college and lasted six months there, hated it, left and at the time I was making bird feeders in my bedroom and bagging hay and sawdust and that was going to be my business and I couldn’t drive, so I was delivering my bird feeders on my bike. And there was a vacancy in one of dad’s shops and he needed me to come and work or needed someone to come and work and I needed some money and I needed to learn to drive so I thought oh well I will go and do that, get some money behind me, get a car and then I can set up my business. And after about a week I realised I loved it and here I am now, I never left.

Elliot Moss
What did you love about it, a wee kid, because how old were you at the time.

Dean Richmond
I was sixteen.

Elliot Moss
Sixteen years old and your dad had how many, mum and dad how many shops?

Dean Richmond
Two stores.

Elliot Moss
Two. Right. And over in Haywards Heath I think.

Dean Richmond
Yeah. Haywards Heath and Hove and I started at the Haywards Heath store and just you know loved dealing with customers, loved the selling aspect. The business wasn’t really customer focused in those days and I sort of came in and shook things up a bit. Started presented products better, started looking after customers. You know my dad was almost the Basil Fawlty of the pet world. He didn’t like customers very much.

Elliot Moss
Keep them away!

Dean Richmond
They were an inconvenience.

Elliot Moss
An inconvenience that’s right. I like my stock, I like animals, but I don’t like those people.

Dean Richmond
Absolutely yeah.

Elliot Moss
I mean at that point it wasn’t uncommon I imagine that a family, you know a family business, I came from a retail business as well and a couple of stores is a lot. I mean that is, you know that was norm. At what point in your time there did you go, hold on a minute I can run this, I want to do something, I want to expand. How quickly did that happen?

Dean Richmond
Well it’s, it’s, people always ask me this and I’ve never really sort of have a, had a plan of saying right in ten years’ time I am going to be at X. It’s always been let’s just do the best we can today and see where we are tomorrow which I know probably lots of people think it’s a bit daft, but just try and do the best every day and things grow and things happen. I mean I am more strategic now, but yeah I know it was very much I worked the Haywards Heath store then I went to work in the Hove store because the manager of Haywards Heath didn’t like me because I was so bossy and asking us to be nice to customers. And then eventually persuaded my dad to open a third store in Brighton which is still one of our top stores and that’s where I then managed that store and I then could properly run the store how I wanted it to be run and that’s where the Pets Corner that is today sort of emerged. So the presentation standards, the customer service standards all come from my time there.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me to find out how Dean Richmond took the standards of one store in Brighton to an empire of over a hundred and fifty stores and related businesses. He’s got story I can tell. Time for some more music, this is Robert Cray and High Rhythm with The Same Love That Made Me Laugh.

Robert Cray and High Rhythm with The Same Love That Made Me Laugh. Dean Richmond is my Business Shaper today, Founder and Managing Director of Pet Family the business that spans over many, many businesses, but the big one is Pets Corner and there is over a hundred and fifty stores on that part of the business. And we were talking about store number three Dean in Brighton and as you said the kind of the beginnings of Pets Corner was really that because that’s where you created, you were managing it, you created the standards that you want to put in place. When you started doing that, I mean it was your first store that you managed but you’d obviously been in the business, what were the two or three things that you did that worked and are they still working for the business now?

Dean Richmond
Umm yeah, a lot of what we did then we do now. Animal welfare was a big thing that I changed – every animal we sold came with a birth certificate which documented where the animal came from and where it went to. We still do that now and many other animal welfare policies. The key thing was customer service and staff training and knowledge. So in the early days I did that research myself and then I trained staff and now we have twenty odd trainers you know with academies around the country to train the staff. And that’s very much what we built on, it was spending good time with customers about their pets, finding the right food for the customer. Most pet food is bought from supermarkets, but supermarket pet food is very poor quality and most customers don’t realise that. They think because it’s on TV it’s good and we sell specialist foods and you need to sort of explain to customers why the specialist food is better and how it can help their dog and there are different foods for different dogs and different ages. And by spending time with customers you know they love it, they tell their friends and family and that’s how the business has grown.

Elliot Moss
When it was just you and you are the manager and you’ve got the store and you can see everything, did you enjoy that in way… did you feel in control in a way that you just can’t feel in control now? Because you might, I mean you strike me as someone who would like, you’re a detailed guy, as I am talking to you you’ve gone straight back to that point in time, you know the two or three things because they are fundamentals.

Dean Richmond
Yes they are fundamental.

Elliot Moss
And you kind of go, if I get that right, but to scale that up it’s a headache isn’t it versus doing it yourself and saying no, no, no, hold on, read this.

Dean Richmond
Yes. There was a time when I was running the business you know at night and working the shop in the day and as the stores, as we got bigger I would be working less in the stores and obviously more as a managing director. But I used to love working in the stores, it was you know, it was almost relaxing, it was a very natural for me to do, it wasn’t stressful and you know even driving the van I used to enjoy doing that. But yeah getting people to do the same think is hard, but you know we have people who are much better at it than I am and that’s really… our skill is finding those good people and then training those people and we spend a lot of money on training our guys to get that knowledge over.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more from my Business Shaper, Dean Richmond, Founder and Manager of Pet Family about he has scaled this business up and then also got pretty ambitious at the same time with other related businesses. Latest travel in a couple of minutes and before that some words of wisdom from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya for you burgeoning business idea.

This is Jazz Shapers, every Saturday morning here on Jazz FM, I am very lucky I get to meet someone who is shaping the world of business and someone who is ambitious and generally successful. That’s a nice combination. My ambitious and generally successful person today is Dean Richmond, Founder and Managing Director of Pet Family, the people in front of and above and behind the Pets Corner business amongst others. Dean we were talking earlier about those early days and they’re formative and that sense of when you get big you have to find people to do the stuff that is in your head that is a vision that you can’t tell them to do because they are no longer in front of you, they’re in a store, hundreds of miles away. When did the business go from small to relatively big and then start to you know, when did you start to get ambitious about the scale of it? I mean what point did you go ‘whoa it’s a bit like driving a car and I’m slightly out of control’, but that’s the only way to do it.

Dean Richmond
I’ve never felt daunted by the business or out of you know, of the scale. I mean Brighton was, was a great store for us, it performed and does perform very well. But we only opened, so Brighton opened I think ’91, I bought the business in ’98 and by then we only had seven stores. So we didn’t expand very quickly and then after I bought the business, because I had to borrow the money to buy it from my dad, we didn’t have much money to open stores and the first store we did open was a total and utter failure. It cost us about £200,000 which was pretty much all the money we had and we didn’t open another store for three years I think. I mean that store nearly killed us. Luckily the next store that opened did go better and then we started rolling out stores in Country Gardens which was a chain of garden centres. That did well. They then got bought by another company and that company didn’t want us to expand anymore so that stopped us for a while then that company had a change of management and they did want us to expand and that was in 2008 and that’s when we sort of opened a lot.

Elliot Moss
So hold on, in 2008 how many stores were there?

Dean Richmond
I think there were thirty.

Elliot Moss
So thirty in 2008 it is now 2017 and a hundred and fifty six?

Dean Richmond
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
That’s fast growth. So did you buy… are there chains that you bought and just basically moved on like that or is it one, by one, by one?

Dean Richmond
No, it was one, by one, by one. We bought a few existing businesses just one, you know one store, single stores. We bought a small chain of four. The recession was really good for us because pets don’t suffer in a recession and obviously properties became available so it did enable us to expand much quicker during the recession and then last year we bought a chain of stores in the south west called Pampered Pets who were a very good geographical fit for us.

Elliot Moss
And how do you keep, well now we’ve got this, you know you’ve got a pretty good national spread a relatively regional spread at least, how do you ensure that you don’t go mad and that those standards are being upheld every day, every hour, every minute when your stores are open?

Dean Richmond
It, you know at times of rapid expansion so during the sort of, you know the 2008/2009 when we were opening a lot and the acquisition of Pampered Pets where there was a big cultural difference and they had very little staff training. We had to literally re-train three hundred staff. That was a challenge and 2016 for everyone in a business was a hard year, but we are now seeing the dividends of that training and the Pampered stores are over 10% up like for like, it’s growing very well. And it is just training, it’s putting in the infrastructure to make sure the staff get the training that they need and proper training we class from training all our staff we don’t just send them a manual, they get proper tuition in small class rooms.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more from my Business Shaper, that’s Dean Richmond, Founder and Managing Director of Pet Family. Time for some more music, this is Aretha Franklin and Think.

That was Aretha Franklin with Think. I’ve been talking to Dean Richmond and he is the man behind the pet business called Pet Family and I say it’s a pet business, it’s not just the Pets Corner business which has grown exponentially since 2008 as you have been hearing. These other businesses that are in there, we’ve got a grooming spa, I just want to be dog for a while if you know what I mean, it doesn’t sound inappropriate, I want to be at Dogwood. So you’ve got Dogwood the grooming spa, you’ve got Doodley Dogs which I think is a dog crèche.

Dean Richmond
That’s right yeah.

Elliot Moss
You’ve got Great and Small the pet accessories brand, Greenacres the pet food brand and more which is another, it’s called you know I think a class leading range of high meat content food, pet food and then you’ve got the Pet Practice which is veterinary practice as well. All of these businesses, are they relatively automatously run?

Dean Richmond
Yes. Great and Small the product business we sell to some other people, but it is effectively our buying team. The Dogwood, the grooming salon, is run by a lovely lady called Julie who joined us a couple of years ago. She runs that in its entity. Pet Practice is run by an MD Ben Johnson who was the founder of the business and we bought into it. The Doodley Dogs run by Jane and Amy Hatcher who are behaviourists, they came up with the concept and we bought into it and gentrified it. And yeah we are about to open the second site, we’ve only got one site at the moment.

Elliot Moss
But your role is an oversight role of all of these businesses.

Dean Richmond
Yeah we, we…

Elliot Moss
I mean it is interesting, the scale on the one side in one business and then there is lots of other ventures. How do you ensure, I mean are there very rigorous business planning tools that you have in place, or is it just a conversation that you’re having regularly, are there board meetings with all these people or do you handle it on a one, you know a case-by-case basis?

Dean Richmond
We have, we have, well we should have probably more board meetings than we have. We have occasional meetings, I go and see them, I just go and see them and talk about their expectations. But the reason that I have invested into these businesses is because they kind of, you know they were getting it right anyway and they had similar principles to us. Where we’ve helped them obviously is with funding and with presentation, marketing, but in terms of the competence of them and their capability, they had that already and that’s why I invested in them.

Elliot Moss
It strikes me that if I threw fifteen more businesses at you, you wouldn’t look anymore stressed than you do today. I mean it almost feels like you would be bored if there weren’t just lots of moving pieces. Is that a fair comment?

Dean Richmond
Yeah I mean I have other businesses outside of pets as well.

Elliot Moss
Of course you do.

Dean Richmond
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
Of course there’s loads of time Dean, I mean there is only a few hundred people over here and a few million quid to manage over there.

Dean Richmond
Yeah well my wife doesn’t understand why I keep… I can’t resist. I mean I had a meeting this earlier this week with a young lad called Tilfey who I met, I give to the Peter Jones Foundation which is a charity which gives kids entrepreneurial training and he’s got this idea for selling second hand bicycles. Great kid. Fantastic idea. I have always wanted to help people who perhaps haven’t the opportunities that I’ve had and so as part of my work with Peter Jones I will give money to youngsters to help them build their businesses in exchange for if one day they make a success of it they then give money back to someone else. I’ve got another meeting next week with another young lad from the Academy. I got pulled over on the M25 last week, this guy pulled up and he said ‘what do you do for a living?’ I was with my wife, we were going on holiday and I said ‘oh pet shops’ and then he disappeared in the traffic and then reappeared on the other side and he said ‘I need to meet James Dyson, I love James Dyson, I’ve got a great idea can you help me?’ And I’m thinking ‘this is a bit strange’ and then my wife shouts ‘Dean loves James Dyson as well’. So anyway so I said to this guy ‘email me’ and anyway he’s a young lad from a very bad part of London and he basically said ‘my circle of friends and my family, I can’t get in contact with James Dyson and I’ve got this idea’ and he drove to Dyson’s office and got turned away by security and so he wants me to try and get this in front of James Dyson so I am meeting him and I just, any opportunities like that, any way where someone wants to help themselves, anyone who wants to try and better themselves, I just can’t resist it. So I spend a lot of time doing things like that which sometimes I think I should perhaps spend more time on the businesses I’ve got. But when someone comes to me with an idea…

Elliot Moss
Yeah, you can’t resist.

Dean Richmond
…I can’t resist it yeah.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for our final chat with my Business Shaper, Dean Richmond the man that can’t resist an idea. He’s the Founder of Pets Corner. Plus we will be playing a track from Louis Armstrong, that’s after the latest traffic and travel here on Jazz FM.

Louis Armstrong with Mack the Knife there. Dean Richmond is my Business Shaper just for a few more minutes. He’s the man behind the Pet Family organisation which owns Pets Corner and many other business as well. We haven’t talked about money. We’ve talked about ideas and we’ve talked about growth and we talked about a kind of, your almost insatiable appetite to just keep doing what I would call the right thing. You see it, you go we can do it like and you get on and do it. How important is the money to you Dean, is it nice to be able to do what you want to do and have you got ambitions to make more money or is it not really about that anymore?

Dean Richmond
No. I don’t aspire to have a twenty five metre yacht or buy properties. I have, you know I have my house which I love, I have a nice car which I love.

Elliot Moss
Rumours tells me that you’ve got a Maclaren.

Dean Richmond
I have, yes. Which I love. A wonderful car.

Elliot Moss
Tell me if one of my sons was here he would be grilling you now about the kind of Maclaren you’ve got. I just know it’s a very beautiful looking car. Is it a beautiful looking car? Is it one of those?

Dean Richmond
It’s a 650S Spider and yes, it’s just the most wonderful thing I’ve ever driven.

Elliot Moss
I’m going to Google it later. So you like your car, you like your house, but it’s not about accumulating much money.

Dean Richmond
No it’s not. I mean I, you know, I don’t have any interest in running a business that doesn’t make money because that’s the measure of whether you’re getting it right. Your customers reward you by giving you money and that’s the measure. So yes, the business needs to function, but you know I would want a business, I wouldn’t invest in something that I felt was immoral or didn’t contribute to society in some way and I very much enjoy the positive things that businesses can bring whether that’s improving people’s lives and people that work for you, improving the environment that your business trades in so we take a lot of pride in the presentation of all our businesses and you know when fit out the stores we spend money on making the local area nicer. And I think that’s important for me.

Elliot Moss
But I am assuming if someone came in, swooped in and said ‘here’s a cheque for X for the business’ and it was the right amount, you would sell it?

Dean Richmond
Yes I mean there is obviously a price. It would be very difficult and it’s not, you know it isn’t on the market and we are not looking to sell it.

Elliot Moss
Because you love it, by the sounds of it…

Dean Richmond
Yeah. Yes.

Elliot Moss
…it isn’t just, but of course everything has a price I suppose…

Dean Richmond
Yes it does, yes.

Elliot Moss
…but it’s not on the horizon for now. The ambition is not to realise it’s value in some form.

Dean Richmond
No. I get a lovely income. I mean the only thing I would like to have is more time, but then I would…

Elliot Moss
I’ve got some suggestions, you’ve got to stop listening to all these people that ask for your help.

Dean Richmond
Yes.

Elliot Moss
No, don’t do that.

Dean Richmond
Keep the window closed on the M25.

Elliot Moss
Keep the window closed. Listen to your wife. Dean, it’s been a real pleasure talking to you. Thank you for your time and just before I let you go though, I have to ask you one more question which is what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Dean Richmond
Some of your listeners will probably groan, you have to understand I was brought up in a house of jazz and the last thing I wanted to do was really listen to jazz. I love electronic music but Nina Simone My Baby Just Cares For Me came into the charts, I think it was the late 80s and I did enjoy that so that’s my choice.

Elliot Moss
Well here it is just for you. Thanks again.

That was My Baby Just Cares For Me from Nina Simone. The song choice of my Business Shaper today, Dean Richmond. Someone who believed in standards, the simple things around customer service and putting them first. Someone who understood that to scale you are going to need to really make sure that your staff are super well-trained and they spend a lot of money on training and someone who loves ideas. He just can’t resist as he said, a good idea and it’s really the secret of his success and why he enjoys running so many different elements of the business. All really, really good stuff. Do join me again, same time, same place, that’s next Saturday 9.00am sharp here on Jazz FM. Meantime though, coming up next it’s Mr Nigel Williams.

Dean Richmond

Born in Cuckfield, Sussex in 1973, Dean left school with four GCSEs.  He ran his own business making birdfeeders and rabbit runs but needed money for a car, so in 1989 went to work in his parents shop, ‘Pets Corner’, which had two stores at the time.

A third store opened in 1992 which Dean ran as he started to develop the modern Pets Corner.  He built the business to seven stores before buying it from his parents in 1998.  Pets Corner now has 156 stores, a small chain of vets, a growing grooming business and pet crèches.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

My dad was almost the Basil Fawlty of the pet world. He didn’t like customers very much.

Animal welfare was a big thing that I changed – every animal we sold came with a birth certificate which documented where the animal came from and where it went to.

The key thing was customer service and staff training and knowledge. So in the early days I did that research myself and then I trained staff. Now we have twenty odd trainers.

I used to love working in the stores, it was almost relaxing, it was very natural for me to do.

We didn’t have much money to open stores and the first store we did open was a total and utter failure.

We should probably have more board meetings than we have…

I have always wanted to help people who haven’t the opportunities that I’ve had…I will give money to youngsters to help them build their businesses in exchange for, if one day they make a success of it, they give money back to someone else.

I don’t aspire to have a twenty five metre yacht or buy properties. I have my house which I love, I have a nice car which I love.

I wouldn’t invest in something that I felt was immoral or didn’t contribute to society in some way and I very much enjoy the positive things that businesses can bring.