CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It's been said the love between a dog and its owner is like the love between a parent and child.
So, what happens when "pet parents" have a business that could take them away from their beloved pooch for hours on end?
For three Charlotte business owners, it means dog logos, dog-inspired business names and dogs hanging around the office, going to meetings and sloshing on water in the break room.
Katie Tyler's decision to let dogs roam in her office was a business strategy: She wanted to keep a good employee.
Her accountant worked hard, but spent most of her time at her desk and computer, said Tyler, chief executive of commercial construction firm Tyler 2 Construction. During the accountant's annual review, Tyler asked what could make life at the office more fulfilling.
The employee, Tyler recalled, said she had just lost her dog and wanted to get a puppy but she didn't want it to be alone.
"Before she got the words 'can I bring her to work' out of her mouth, I said, 'bring her to work,'"
And that's been the norm for the past 14 years. Of Tyler's 23 employees, about five of them own dogs with a second home at the company's office. On any given day, six to seven canines can be found attending office meetings, chomping ice in the break room or napping on orthopedic beds. The dogs ring a bell tied to a door if they need to go outside.
There are some simple in-office ground rules:
––Each dog must be vaccinated and up to date on heartworm and flea medication.
––Each dog has to be groomed (as in, not dirty, messy or smelly).
––Each dog has to be well-behaved. (Troublemakers need not report to work.)
But even when some of the pups are a little rambunctious, they tend to mellow out within a few weeks, Tyler said.
"The other dogs will say that's not appropriate behavior," she said, jokingly. "There are times they'll get frisky, start chasing each other around the office and we have to put a kibosh on that."
Sadie, a 1-year-old chocolate Labrador, has been an office fixture at Charlotte's Evans Coghill Homes since her owner, Chris Folk, bought her last January. Folk, who co-founded the home construction business in 2001, decided to bring Sadie to his office so she could socialize with humans.
"I didn't want to leave her in the house or crate all day," Folk said. "She's kind of grown up in the business."
It's at that business that Sadie has a bed, food bowls and chew toys. She often joins Folk on job sites, sniffing homes under construction and removing trash with her mouth.
"It was a little bit challenging during the puppy stage," said Folk, adding that Sadie was very active and required frequent walks. "Now ... she's much more apt to sit here with me."
No dogs assist in the production of fermented kombucha tea and gluten-free beer at the Lenny Boy Brewing Co. on Hawkins Street. But the microbrewery does have a dog-friendly taproom where beer is served, a dog in its name and a dog on its logo, bottles and glasses.
When Townes Mozer decided to start the beverage company, he looked to his 80-pound Labrador terrier for inspiration. The dog's name is Lennox, but everyone calls him Lenny Boy, Mozer said. Hence, the business name.
"It rolled off the tongue: 'Hey, give me a Lenny Boy. I'll take a Lenny Boy,' " Mozer said. "I ran with it."
Lenny Boy, now 8, doesn't go to work with his dad. For health and safety reasons, dogs aren't allowed in the section of the brewery where the products are made. Mozer's dog is still an integral part of the business, just as the logo attests. An artist friend of Mozer's created the design, which features a drawing of a man and dog sitting together.
Said Mozer: "That's me and Lenny Boy."
Do puppies drive profits? Here's what the business owners had to say:
Lenny Boy Brewing Co.: While Mozer's taproom, where the beer is served, is not a doggie free-for-all, he does believe letting dogs in brings more customers.
"A lot of people are coming out on the weekends, taking the dogs on a walk in the neighborhood," he said. "Breweries, in general, are pretty welcoming and community-based."
Evans Coghill Homes: Having Sadie in their design center helps break the ice for Chris Folk's clients when they choose products for their home, he said.
"I think it just lightens the mood when the dogs are around," he said. "(Sadie) takes right to strangers because she's been around people so much."
Tyler 2 Construction: Katie Tyler doubts clients choose her firm just because of the dogs. But there's no doubt they play a critical role in the company's branding.
The company's logo is a trademark with a pooch's face, ears and snout. On its website, the firm touts itself as the companion customers can trust in the dog-eat-dog world of construction. Employees and bosses are collectively known as "the pack."
Tyler, also known as "the big dog," hopes the canine connection sends a message about what clients can expect from her business and employees: "Friendly. Dependable. Loyal."
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