All-Star Case Studies

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2021 Case Study - 1st Pet Vet

Chandler, AZ

2020 Revenues:

Employees: 275

Critical Numbers™: Profit Before Taxes


Organization Background

Originally founded in 1989 as a single location, 1st Pet Veterinary Centers, or 1st Pet Vet for short, has evolved over the years to offer a complete range of veterinarian services, including 24-hour emergency care, in three Arizona locations.


The veterinary industry is under pressure from large corporations who are systematically buying many of the veterinary hospitals throughout the United States. 1st Pet founder, Dr. Randy Spencer, wanted to take a different path from that of selling the business to corporate interests. His goal was for 1st Pet to continue on as a business for at least the next 100 years by getting the teams in his three locations to work toward common goals.


To develop the long-term sustainability of the business, and to create wealth for his employees, Dr. Spencer wanted to find a way to make his employees owners of the business through an ESOP. To create a culture based on everyone thinking and acting like owners, Dr. Spencer turned to The Great Game of Business® (GGOB) in early 2019. “Our motivation to play GGOB is fueled by our desire to create a successful, self-perpetuating business that provides the very best care for pets and an excellent client experience by a dedicated team of employee owners who each have the opportunity to be self-reliant,” says Dr. Spencer.


With the help of their GGOB coach, Jack O’Riley, the 1st Pet team embraced financial literacy training, playing MiniGames™, and huddling weekly and monthly. “The team members are beginning to realize how much of an impact each and every one of them can have on the practice—every day,” says Dr. Spencer. “It is gratifying to hear them talk about, ‘not using too much gauze.’ It will increase our COGs.’ Or, ‘We need to remember to offer a couple more heartworm tests—our MiniGame ends this week!’ They are more engaged than ever before, and it is gratifying to see them embracing new responsibilities and problem solving.” As a result, 1st Pet sales revenue increased by 55% since they began playing GGOB while EBITDA has increased 183% over that same time period. As a result, team members earned A Stake in the Outcome® equal to a $1.5 million bonus in 2020.

“Since we started GGOB in 2019 our company has changed in many ways. With the help of all of our employees, we have created a mission, core values, and culture that we all feel passionate to live by daily. These tools and guidance have helped us create a company we are all proud of and excited to work for. Our employee engagement has improved even through the last year of unknowns.”

~ Darci Hoefer, Hospital Manager

Spotlight on the Pandemic

As an essential business, 1st Pet offices remained open throughout the pandemic. In fact, they were slammed, as it seemed that everyone took the past year to adopt a new pet. That created challenges trying to keep team members safe. Even as they transitioned to curbside drop-off service, it was difficult to keep up with an explosion in demand created by all those “pandemic puppies” and the like. That created client wait-times of up to ten hours and, in some worst-case scenarios, a “diversion protocol” where 1st Pet had to delay any non-emergency appointments. That level of busyness made it difficult for the entire team to connect regularly on their weekly Huddles, which they conducted remotely, and began recording so people could watch them later. At the same time, Spencer says that the team got  better than ever at daily work group Huddles. “We have found that these Huddles are extremely useful for communication about what is happening on each shift.,” he says. “The busyness could have stopped or slowed the progress of our work group Huddles. Instead, it has made them seem more important and more useful for communication and planning. Our team is tired but committed.” 

MiniGame™ Spotlight

Over the past year, 1st Pet teams have come up with creative, fun, interactive games that help them improve their systems, increase income, and elevate morale. Using MiniGames, “We have increased efficiency, improved client service, corrected behaviors, and created an overall recognition and awareness of financial goals,” says Spencer. One of the MiniGames the team successfully played, for example, was targeted at increasing the participation in their workgroup Huddles to 95%—which helped them improve communication, especially around the drivers to their Critical Number.

“I think GGOB has helped empower our staff. By having open-book financials everyone is able to see where our money goes (expenses, profits, etc.) and this helps visualize how the business is doing.”

~ Stefanie Scrivener, Veterinary Technician / Emergency Supervisor

What’s Next

While 2021 is already off to a great start, Spencer says the 1st Pet team has ambitious goals including engaging the team in their second year of High-Involvement Planning™ while also increasing involvement, participation, and use of the GGOB Community by the entire team to help elevate their game play. 1stPet has contracted Prairie Capital to help them through the succession process of transitioning ownership to an ESOP. “We anticipate that this will be finalized in the late summer or fall 2021,” says Spencer.


“Engagement has exponentially increased, everyone is accountable and holds themselves to a higher standard with patient care, and the culture has become overall significantly more cohesive.”

~ Michael Schacher, Veterinarian





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