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Chat with Lenny Thomas of Petraveller

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Lenny Thomas launched Petraveller in 2014 driven by a passion to change the pet transportation industry. Previously working in the aviation and transportation industry gave Lenny an insight into the possibilities for innovation in this niche market, while his love for animals offered empathy not seen in the industry. We worked with the team to create a strong brand identity that represented Petraveller’s professionalism, warmth, and commitment to the care of your pet.

We love to catch up with our clients to see what they have learned from starting up and running a new business. Here’s what Lenny had to say on his journey so far.

Starting up a challenger business in a competitive market with established players is never easy, what obstacles have you faced so far and how did you overcome them?

The pet transport industry was a well-established market when we started out. As new entrants, we faced great obstacles to form valuable supplier relationships due to ongoing supplier loyalty to our competition. In such a niche business, our suppliers are incredibly valuable to us. We overcame this with a great deal of patience; we weren’t going to force suppliers to partner with us. We accentuated our point of difference: the fact that we were focused on care, knowledgeable, and trustworthy.

We also worked on the fact that we have a vision that will change our industry. Pet transport is a highly complex, highly emotive business. There are a huge number of moving parts. Historically, pet owners were not made aware of the complete pet travel process until things went wrong – time delays, anxious pets, hidden fees. Understandably, this causes customers huge levels of stress. Our goal was to wipe out the unknowns and manage the complexities for the customer, so they can focus on their own travel and relocation plans.

What does a typical work day at Petraveller look like?

Often I have a 4am start in order to communicate with our USA and UK partners. After that I’ll go through emails, head to the office, then on to the airport with my team. We always carry out a thorough assessment of pets and notify our customers of their health status and any other updates. Back in the office, I focus on the most challenging tasks first and foremost. At the moment, we’re currently transporting a cat from Mongolia – a feat not completed in Australia since 2007.

I always make sure I stop for one hour every day to regroup and address innovation in our business. This is a huge focus for us. We are always looking for ways to make our customers smile. Every day I also make sure I train our energetic staff in some way. I wrap up the day around 6-7pm, finishing with a call to my state managers to debrief. I’ll review the following day to make sure everything is in place, then do my best to switch off and not look at emails…

How important has it been to build your ‘brand’ in addition to your business?

Building our brand has been more important than building the business. Trust is a huge factor in our industry. By building a strong, recognisable brand, our global contacts, suppliers, and clients gain confidence in what we’re doing.

What apps or systems have helped to simplify the day to day operations of your business?

Technology is vital to the success of our business and helps us to communicate with our customers. We spent several years developing our internal systems before we transported our first pet. The vast number of factors that are involved in pet transport determine the need for highly adept, complex systems. We must be able to find and calculate factors such as transit times, government regulations and aircraft capacity to ensure we can communicate with integrity, clarity and in real-time.  We don’t require our customers to download an app that’s not suited to their needs. We understand that they have busy lives and individual requirements. We interact with them on their terms, via phone, email or social media.

What do you love about running your own business?

I love the fact that my personal values help my team and I express who we are, in the form of a service. Working with integrity is hugely important to me. My team and I share a spirit of excellence that makes coming to work every day an enjoyable experience.

What are the top three tips you would give to people thinking about starting their own business?

1: Even if it doesn’t make sense, but you truly believe in it, commit to it. You may experience rejection, but if you still can’t sleep at night thinking about what you want to achieve, persevere.

2: Make sensible financial decisions, but don’t allow financial pressure to hold you back.

3: Leverage your strengths but don’t let your weaknesses limit you. Find a way to shape your unique point of difference and surround yourself with people who believe in you.

You’re very passionate about what you do, how important has this been as Petraveller has grown?

There is no way that I could work for more than seven and a half hours a day if I wasn’t passionate about what I do. I don’t believe the human body can sustain work for longer than that without passion. Passion is the fuel to continue to strive for growth.

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