Barks & Recreation: learning new tricks for success

Barks and Recreation has provided the Trail area with pet services for more than a decade. Their recent completion of the Trust’s RevUp program has them poised to continue growing as a small business.

4 minute read

Scale-up program unleashes more options for pet-focused business

The storefront at 1208 Pine Avenue in Trail may seem unassuming—bright, clean and quiet—until 7:30 a.m. rolls around. That’s when the four-legged clients start pouring in, marking the beginning of another lively day at Barks & Recreation.

Established in 2009 as a dog-training venture, Barks & Recreation has transformed over the years. By 2013, it had blossomed into a full-service pet store, complete with doggy daycare, pet grooming and supplies for most household critters. Then came the 2020 pandemic, along with hard times. But this was also the impetus of an unexpected boom.

“Things exploded after the pandemic,” says Cameron Dixon, who owns the business along with his wife Sarah. “So many people acquired new pets during that time. This really changed our business, especially when people started having to go back to work. We not only had to bring our staff back, we also had to hire four more employees.”

The Dixons seized an opportunity to develop even further when they were accepted into Columbia Basin Trust’s Basin RevUp program, tailored for businesses primed for expansion. From May 2023 to January 2024, they collaborated closely with a dedicated coaching team, focusing on financial management, growth strategy and leadership.

Keeping up and moving ahead

Before they joined the program, the business’s rapid pace had left the owners feeling a little nervous.

“We were growing and didn’t know what to do,” says Sarah.

“We were worried me might outgrow our current location,” adds Cameron.

Looking for resources to help them continue to succeed, Sarah came across Basin RevUp and jumped on the opportunity like a black lab into water. Having the support from a pair of business-minded mentors was appealing to the Dixons, but the new experience didn’t come without hesitation.

“We were told that it is very important for a business to look into the future. But it made us nervous to look too far forward when we were already growing,” says Sarah.

However, the nerves calmed when the eight-month program began to take shape and they implemented a strategic plan with help from the advisors.

“We called the advisors our Business Mom and Dad,” says Sarah.“They asked us the tough questions, like ‘Why did you start the business in the first place?’ And they reminded us that we were already in a good place; they just wanted to help us get to a better place. Whenever we found ourselves getting down, or a little negative, they were always there to boost us back up!”

Taking on new roles

In May 2023, the weekly meetings began, and soon enough the team had developed a five-year plan for the company. With this in place, the couple quickly saw themselves becoming more organized and efficient.

“We started carving out more time away from behind the till,” says Sarah. “We discovered that getting away from the business would allow us to work on the business more.”

By leaving more of the customer service to their employees, they now had time to do essential activities like carefully tracking their revenues and expenses. This showed them which areas of their business were strong versus which needed more attention. Such information also helped them establish which areas needed more marketing through methods like social media.

With this additional effort put in behind the scenes, the Dixons saw their revenue increase after only a few months in the program.

Armed with a newfound understanding of items like how to manage payroll, spend wisely and assemble a stellar team, Barks & Recreation is now equipped with robust tools crucial for small-business success. With aid from their participation in Basin RevUp, they are positioned to emerge as a dominant force in the local pet service industry for years to come.

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