Bark Busters

Interview with Andrew Brooke, President and CEO of Bark Busters

What does an award-winning Australian chef do when he has reached the pinnacle of his career but is still unfulfilled and wants a change? If you are Andrew Brooke, President and CEO of Bark Busters of Englewood, Colorado, you become the franchisee of a one-of-a-kind pet franchise company called Bark Busters. If it seems a stretch to go from cooking gourmet meals to training Fido, Brooke attributes the transition to fate and very good luck.

Bark Busters is a franchise company offering in-home dog training to help with the multitude of pet behavior problems. The company started when Sylvia and Danny Wilson, animal lovers and dog trainers, managed an Australian version of a dog pound and saw a growing number of "problem" pets being euthanized because of their behaviors. The Wilsons developed their own system of dog training based on a dog's natural pack instincts and had great success rehabilitating unruly, unwanted dogs.

They quickly became a celebrity experts on dog training - to the point where they had difficulty keeping up with all of the demands on their time and talent. While the Wilsons couldn't clone themselves in the late 1980s, they realized that they could clone the business model, which would keep the system pure. The model fit a franchise system perfectly.

This is where Brooke and wife, Lisa (who also worked in the hospitality industry), entered the story. Having their own "problem pet," an adored dog named Oliver, they were drawn to the Bark Busters booth at a local business fair. They quickly became sold on the concept and left their careers to become franchisees. "It was fate that we discovered this business just when we were looking for something new," says Brooke. "Being able to work together as franchisees in Australia was such a positive experience, and we considered ourselves very lucky to have found this company."

Meanwhile, another couple, Liam and Natalie Crowe, were expanding Bark Busters throughout New Zealand. Both couples saw the U.S. as a great-untapped market of dog lovers and decided to bring the concept here in 2000.

Today there are 300 Bark Busters franchise locations in 8 countries, including 192 in the U.S. "We will reach 250 in the U.S. by the end of 2006," says Brooke, "and we are already in 39 states including Hawaii."

Brooke states that the pet industry is about 38.4 billion per year. "Americans spend more money on their pets than on toys and candy, and this business has lots of legs left for future growth. There are 70-plus million dogs in the U.S., and we've identified 750 to 800 potential locations for full-time Bark Busters franchisees. We expect to be sold out in 3-4 years."

We "think dog" in order to train dogs.

Bark Busters has trained over 300,000 dogs worldwide. "We can train any dog, any age, with any issue," says Brooke. "What we actually do is come into the owner's home for several hours and train the owner to train the dog. We take into consideration the dog's body language, how the owner presents a pecking order in the family, and the issues that may be going on in the home. We think like a dog in order to train dogs, and the dog enjoys the training. The average fee for a training session is $520 so we are very affordable. If the dog and owner don't quite perfect the skill, which happens in about 20% of cases, we return and continue training as needed - for free. Our methods are so successful that we offer a written guarantee which is valid for the life of the dog."

Typical problems addressed by the Bark Busters franchisees are:

  • jumping up on furniture and people
  • aggression towards people or other dogs
  • excessive barking
  • not coming when called
  • toilet training problems
  • pulling on the leash during walks
  • chewing

"We are pioneers in a market that we're just beginning to tap," explains Brooke. "Our franchisees love dogs and feel wonderful about helping solve pet problems. Our natural methods are entirely humane and based on using effective communications. Americans tend to treat their dogs like children and are then surprised when the dogs misbehave. We teach clients to assert their position as leader in the household so that the dog understands his own position. This is based on the dog's natural instinct for pack behavior."

Drive * Determination * Fire * Passion * Integrity

Bark Busters is looking for committed franchisees who love dogs. A strong sales background is desirable. "This is a fun and exciting business," says Brooke, "and our franchisees love their new lifestyle. There is no office to maintain and our franchisees typically work out of their homes and choose their own hours. We provide an intensive three weeks of training to teach franchisees our system as well as all the tools and materials they need to market and run their business. What our franchisees do need is the drive, determination and fire to make their business successful. They must have a passion for helping people and their pets and the integrity to follow our system."

Bark Busters can legitimately claim happy franchisees - the Franchise Business Review, a leading market research company, named Bark Busters #17 on their list for 2006 after completing lengthy interviews with participating franchisees. They achieved a #1 position in the pet category.

  • 93% of all franchisees rated Bark Busters as an "above average" business opportunity.
  • 93% of franchisees believe that there is "above average" communication and support between franchisees in the system.
  • 100% of franchisees said they respected Bark Busters as an organization.
  • 99% of franchisees state that their schedule is flexible enough to allow them time off whenever they want or need.
  • 75% of franchisees joined Bark Busters because they were seeking more control over their finances and their future.

Brooke says that Bark Busters franchisees are one big happy family, which seems logical as the American side of the business was started by two couples who continue to be active in the business. Lisa Brooke and Natalie Crowe are in franchise development and Liam Crowe is the COO/CFO. "This is a great business for couples," and about half our franchisees operate that way," says Brooke. "However, we have equally successful single operators."

"When you and your dog come to Colorado for franchisee training, you start a journey towards the next phase of your life and you'll find a business that is both financially rewarding and enjoyable," says Brooke. "Brett Silk, son of founder Sylvia Wilson, has personally trained over 11,000 dogs and his team will teach you our methods at our National Training Center. Our franchise model lets you get into this business for very little money and we do extensive national advertising and PR, which brings in the clients."

Besides the constant exposure Bark Busters receives all across the nation (appearing on dozens of local TV stations and a recent Martha Stewart Living segment on Sirius Radio as well as in Better Homes & Gardens, Entrepreneur magazine, and many newspapers across the country), franchisees will find clients by learning to network with veterinary clinics and pet groomers and will also develop a large referral clientele.

"If you are ready to leave corporate America and find a business that is both rewarding and fun, we invite you to join the Bark Busters family," says Brooke. "Our franchisees become mini celebrities in their own markets and enjoy what they do. As we say here, 'Find a business you love and never work another day.'"

About Bark Busters

Bark Busters, the world's largest, most trusted dog training company, started in Australia in 1989 and came to the United States in 2000. Since inception, over 300,000 dogs have been trained worldwide using its dog-friendly, natural method. With 192 franchised offices in 39 states and 280+ offices in 8 countries, Bark Busters is continuing its mission to build a global network of dog behavioral trainers to enhance responsible dog ownership and reduce the possibility of maltreatment, abandonment, and euthanasia of companion dogs. Bark Busters is the only international dog training company that offers a written lifetime guarantee. Trainers will provide future sessions free of charge if problem behaviors recur, or if any new problems develop

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