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2021 Case Study - DogBoy's Dog Ranch

Pflugerville, TX

2020 Revenues:
$1.1 million

Employees: 27

Critical Numbers™: Labor

Organization Background

Founded in 1995 by Bart and Courtney Emken, DogBoy’s Dog Ranch is a unique 15-acre boarding kennel, doggie day care and training facility just northeast of Austin.


The Emkens wanted a way to nurture and grow young people into future entrepreneurs or outstanding contributors to their company and their community. “We want our people to have the opportunities we did of feeling confident to go out on their own and follow their dreams,” says Courtney Emken.


The Emkens were originally introduced to The Great Game of Business® (GGOB) by Amy’s Ice Creams in Austin, TX. “We were motivated by how engaged their employees were, especially when they invited us to their Huddles,” says Emken. They were also referred to the team at Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After returning from that trip in 2015, they decided to start playing The Game in their own business. You could tell that their company, their businesses, and their employees were on fire, and had taken customer care to a whole different level,” says Emken. “We wanted to be a part of that!”


Emken says that the biggest impact GGOB has had on their business is that employees are more comfortable expressing their views and ideas. “Not only are they coming up with more ideas on their own, but they are also more passionate when they don’t like something we’re doing,” she says, while admitting that it was a difficult adjustment at first. Over time, she and her husband saw the value in giving people a voice, letting them come up with solutions when they don’t like what is proposed, and bringing ideas to the table that they never would have considered as owners. “It turns out our employees are smart, caring people who want what is best for the dogs and their owners just like we do,” she says.

“The staff is more engaged and understands how the money is made. and more importantly, how it is spent. When Covid hit they were ready with $$ ideas and saving ideas. There is more of a team atmosphere than before.”

~ Bart Emken

Spotlight on the Pandemic

When the pandemic shutdowns hit in March, that immediately had an impact on the demand for the kinds of services the DogBoy’s team offered. Since people were staying home, they didn’t need doggie daycare or lodging services like they did when they were vacationing. “Covid threw a curveball at every facet of this organization,” says Emken. That forced the team to get creative to find ways to keep some revenue coming in the door. For example, one employee came up with the idea of offering a subscription service for customers where they could pre-order a “S’Wag Bag” every month filled with treats and other extra inventory they had on hand. “Our team is more engaged than ever,” says Emken. “Especially working through Covid and watching us struggle to survive as business owners. They have worked their BUTTS off! It’s gotten people that would probably never have been comfortable speaking up in a group or giving ideas to be actively participating in huddles and planning super creative games. We couldn’t be prouder of our team.”

MiniGame™ Spotlight

Emken says the DogBoy’s team plays MiniGames year-round, focused on increasing sales, launching new services, lowering expenses, or improving processes. A MiniGame they’re currently playing is called, “Communication Barkdown,” which has a goal of measuring their success rate of communication across the company. “Early in the year we were really struggling with miscommunication,” says Emken, “so we gamified it, are tracking it, and are on track to reach our targeted goal.” The reward? Renting out a movie theater for the whole team.

“I think The Great Game of Business motivates employees because it is transparent with them and lets them know what is going on in the company at all times. It encourages them to help develop the company and further its progress not as a requirement but rather as something the employee will most likely want to do themselves. It also puts a little more of a happy and fun outlook on managing a business and trying to make everything work out.”

~ Alexa K, Kennel Technician

What’s Next

While 2020 was focused on survival, Emken says that 2021 will be about taking the opportunity to give the business a facelift inside and out—which they plan to accomplish by using The Game to help deliver exceptional pet care and a one-of-a-kind customer experience. Emken says they also have a goal of raising their minimum wage to $15 an hour. “Getting creative around income, expenses, and processes will up our game and give us the profit we need to bring everyone’s pay up,” she says. “We believe that getting ahead of the minimum wage law will set us up for success in the future.”


“Employee engagement has very much improved from my previous jobs. I like how all staff is included and up to date with all aspects of the business. Makes it feel more “’family like.’”

~ Kacie Reeder, Kennel & Office Staff





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