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If you go north over the Ballard Bridge, take the off ramp just after you cross, go right on NW Ballard Way after you pass Mike’s Chili Parlor, and go a few blocks past the gigantic Trader Joe’s store, you’ll find an unassuming, 2-story brick building that is the US Headquarters of Trupanion, the largest pet insurance company in North America.
Inside, you’ll find it buzzing with the activity of approximately 250 employees dedicated to providing quality, affordable pet insurance to pet owners throughout North American and Puerto Rico.
And while Seattle has lots of dog friendly businesses, Trupanion is one of the dog friendliest: about 80 dogs, along with 10 cats, come to work with their owners. That’s about 1 pet for every 3 employees.
More than just a pet insurance company
Trupanion’s current CEO Darryl Rawlings founded the company (then named Vetinsurance) in 1999 in Vancouver, BC. It insured its first pet in the United States in 2008, and last year it expanded to Puerto Rico as well.
Today, the company is now rated as North America’s #1 pet insurance company (petinsurancereview.com, 8/1/2012).
But Trupanion isn’t just about selling pet insurance. It also has some pet causes.
Celebrating deaf pets
Trupanion works to debunk the myths and misconceptions of having a deaf pet, noting on it’s website that “It is unfortunate that many people feel there are only challenges with owning a deaf pet, when there are so many benefits.”
The company also produced this video about Joe Anderson, one of its employees, who has 2 deaf dogs. In the video Joe explains the joys (which are many) and challenges (which are few) of living with dogs that can’t hear.
Trupanion also has a YouTube channel with videos providing tips and advice about living with deaf dogs and cats.
Pet Fire Safety
Trupanion is promoting something many pet friendly businesses don’t think about – creating and implementing a fire safety plan in the workplace, and making sure that plan outlines specific protocols for office pets.
Working with our local fire warden and experts in the pet space, Trupanion not only developed a plan for its own employees, they shared it with the public to help other pet friendly businesses develop their own plans without starting from scratch.
Here’s a video on the company website about the development of its pet fire safety plan:
Emergency Pet Preparedness
Trupanion has an entire section of its website dedicated to emergency pet preparedness. It emphasizes the importance of having a plan for you and your family, and your pets when a natural disaster strikes.
It also lists what you need in a pet emergency kit, including food, water, collar, ID tag, leash, medicine, medical records, and favorite toys.
Partnering with animal shelters and rescues
Trupanion also has a cool Shelter Support Program that supports animal shelters and rescues across the county. The company gives one free month of pet insurance to animals adopted from their partner shelters AND gives $4 to the shelters for each pet adopted.
In addition, if the pet adopter buys pet insurance from Trupanion after his/her free month is over, the shelter gets another $20-$24.
This not only provides financial support to shelters, it can also help reduce the number of newly adopted pets that are returned or euthanized due to medical treatment new adopters can’t afford.
Currently Trumpanion partners with 31 shelters and rescues around the country including 5 in Washington: the Humane Society of Skagit Valley, the Olympic Peninsula Humane Society, Purrfect Pals, Regional Animal Services of King County, and the Seattle Humane Society.
Office environment geared towards pets
When I visited the Trupanion office I expected a somewhat chaotic atmosphere. After all, isn’t that something you’d expect in an enclosed environment with 250 people, 80 dogs, and 10 cats?
Instead, I found an office environment that looked and sounded like any other office – people were talking on the phone with customers, chatting with each other, and having meetings. The only difference was that many of them had their pets with them.
Just about every dog I saw was lying quietly on or under their owner’s desk. Some greeted me, others opened an eye and went back to sleep.
And the dogs came in all shapes, sizes and breeds. I saw a Great Dane. I saw Poodles. I saw American Staffordshire Terriers/Pit Bulls (no breed restrictions at Trupanion!). I saw French Bulldogs. And I saw mutts, lots of mutts.
Some people had their dogs with them in meetings. One person scratched her dog behind the ear as she was talking to a customer. Another dog happily tagged behind its person as he ran an errand. And some without dogs were watching the dog of a cubicle-mate who wasn’t there.
The whole place is a dog lover’s dream.
Pet friendly perks for employees
In addition to allowing/encouraging employees to bring their pets to work, Trupanion has a number of pet friendly perks like:
- free pet insurance
- free dog walking service at work
- a fenced area in the lobby for puppy playtime
- a pet bereavement day
Trupanion does understand that problems can arise when you have 90 pets in a space with 250 people.
“It’s expected that all employees will respect co-workers and talk constructively through any issues that come up,” said Dr. Kerri Marshall, Chief Veterinary Officer at Trupanion. “An escalation process is also in place to handle incidents that cannot be resolved.”
And what about people with pet allergies?
“We do have employees with pet allergies in our office, and we respect them and make accommodations that help them manage their symptoms in alignment with their doctor’s recommendation,” said Dr. Marshall. “But we also know that we may be discouraging talent from joining our team because of our environment. We take that risk, because we see the incredible benefit pets bring – including high employee satisfaction and retention, increased company morale, and less overall stress. We also care deeply about the pets. Pets are part of our families and are also integral members of our teams at work. They are there to make sure we are acting in their best interest!”
Trupanion pet policies must be working – in a press release from earlier this year, the company said it has a 97.8% employee retention rate.
As a significant amount of Trupanion’s employees don’t bring pets to work, their retention rate also proves they still like having other people’s pets around them at work.
Focusing on customers
I’m no business expert, but I think Trupanion became the leading pet insurance provider in North America because of its laser-like focus on its customers, both human and canine.
A good example of how Trupanion is constantly focused on its customers is how it names its office conference rooms.
Each room is not just named after a dog the company insures, it also contains stories about a particular dog or objects that the dog loves.
The Edison room is named after a Jack Russell terrier that is a flyball champion. Inside it has an article about Edison and tennis balls on the walls.
The Izzy room is named after a terrier mix that LOVES rope toys, so of course it has rope toys on the walls.
Trupanion’s “Why Dare to Care?” board is another example of how the company prioritizes customer service because it highlights some of the heartfelt stories customers send Trupanion about how the company helped their pets.
Trupanion post pictures and stories to the board to remind employees the reason the company was created – to help pets and their owners.
The person who gave me the tour of the building said the “Why Dare to Care?” board also reminds employees that by providing pet owners with affordable insurance, Trupanion is “waging war on economic euthanasia, and every person in our building plays a role in it.”
I had never heard of the term “economic euthanasia” before, but when I did I understood exactly what she meant: it’s when dog owners put down their pet because they can’t afford treatment for a medical problem.
I like the fact that Trupanion emphasizes to its employees that their top priorities should be saving pets and helping customers as opposed to figuring out ways to turn down claims so the company makes as much money as possible.
This message has clearly taken hold with employees. One customer representative spent 8 hours on the phone with a worried pet owner to help them on a claim.
Focus on customers comes straight from the top
My tour guide also told me a story about how Trupanion CEO Darryl Rawlings was raising capital for Trupanion he was in a room full of potential investors, ready to present Trupanion and why it’d be worth their money.
Before he started the presentation he asked everyone in the room to raise their hands if they have a pet. The investors in the room raised their hands. Darryl then told those investors who didn’t have their hands raised to leave.
He said “I’m sorry, but unfortunately you just won’t understand what we do.” He believes non-pet owners and pet passionate people are good people, but they don’t truly believe our purpose and what we’re here to do and won’t until they experience the love of a pet.
I think that story exemplifies why Trupanion is such a successful company, and Seattle pet guardians should be proud it is located in our city.
To learn more about Trupanion and the services it offers go to www.trupanion.com.
Here are some of the dogs at the Trupanion office: