September 26, 2013

A Word with the Boss: Planet Dog co-CEO sees a mission to give back

By Edward D. Murphy
Staff Writer

Colleen McCracken recently joined Planet Dog, the Westbrook-based maker of dog toys and treats, as co-chief executive officer, along with Stephanie Volo. Prior to joining Planet Dog, McCracken held financial positions at G.H. Bass and Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers. Planet Dog makes pet toys and treats, including its best-selling Orbee-Tuff Orbee Ball. The company is part of the $55.3 billion pet products and services industry -- up from $17 billion 20 years ago -- and has 27 employees and about 5,000 wholesale customers. A portion of all sales is donated to the Planet Dog Foundation, which supports training dogs for people in need.

click image to enlarge

Colleen McCracken, the new co-chief executive officer of Planet Dog, is shown at the headquarters in Westbrook.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Q: You've gone from a shoe company to a wood furniture maker to a dog toy company. That's quite a variety.

A: The process of making molded dog toys is very similar to the process of making shoes. While the products are very, very different, both companies are great brands and both are built on a very strong belief on what the brand needs to represent. For Planet Dog, it's wonderfully designed dog toys, but it's also the mission to give back.

The Planet Dog Foundation is part of the mission of the company -- it primarily funds service dogs for people in need. We have our retail store and one of the major things that we do in the store is sponsor adoption days for local agencies that are trying to help get dogs adopted. I hear all the time from customers that they just love Planet Dog because they love the products, but they also love that we give back. These days, those kinds of things are very important values for consumers and it's actually part of our mission. We love the life that we live with our four-legged friends and we strongly believe in giving back -- we just passed the $1 million mark in cash grants and product donations and it's something that we've very proud of.

Q: Why did you go to Planet Dog?

A: I was at the point of feeling a need to make a change and I think these things happen that are very synergistic. I ended up having a chance discussion with Alex (Fisher, the company's founder) and I think there was a reason for that. It was just a great time and those things happen for all of the right reasons. In my entire career, that's how it's been and I think for a lot of leaders, you're not looking for the next opportunity, but it comes your way.

Q: What's it like being a co-CEO?

A: It's great. I'll tell people I'm a co-CEO and you get a lot of looks, like, how does that work? Stephanie and I get along well -- Stephanie was here since it was founded and Stephanie's background is retail expansion -- she's a brand person and my strength is around the finances and operations. So we have complementary skill sets. This sort of is the best opportunity for the company -- for people with diverse skill sets to work collaboratively to better a company. We work extremely well together and I think women, in particular, have an ability to seize those opportunities. We see it as two smart people are better than one.

Q: You believe that women can work together better than men?

A: My experience is that, although the world is changing, I do believe that women tend to surround themselves with really smart people and I'm used to making sure that I have a team of really bright people. Being a CEO means maximizing the talent of your team and I think maybe women see that better than men.

(Continued on page 2)

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