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Trupanion Based in Ballard
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.
Seattle has lots of dog friendly businesses, but Trupanion is one of the dog friendliest.
About 80 dogs and 10 cats come to work with their owners. That’s about 1 pet for every 3 of Trupanion’s 250employees.
North America’s Largest Pet Insurer
Trupanion’s 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. Last year it expanded to Puerto Rico as well.
Currently, the company is 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. Its website notes, “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.
Pet Fire Safety
Trupanion also promotes creating and implementing a workplace fire safety plan that outlines specific protocols for office pets.
Working with our local fire warden and experts, Trupanion not only developed a plan for its own employees. In addition, it shared it to help other pet friendly businesses develop their own plans.
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 also emphasizes the importance of having a plan for you, your family, and your pets when a natural disaster strikes.
It also lists items you need in a pet emergency kit like food, water, collar, ID tag, leash, medicine, medical records, and favorite toys.
Partnering with Animal Shelters and Rescues
Trupanion 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.
Pet Friendly Office Environment
When I visited the Trupanion office I expected a somewhat chaotic atmosphere; 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.
They came in all shapes, sizes and breeds. I saw a Great Danes, Poodles, and American Staffordshire Terriers/Pit Bulls (no breed restrictions at Trupanion!), and 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 spoke with a customer. Another dog happily tagged behind its person as he ran an errand. Some employees without dogs watched the dog of a cubicle-mate who wasn’t there.
Not surprisingly, 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
Accommodating Employees Without Pets
“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.
Since many Trupanion employees don’t bring pets to work, their retention rate also proves they like having other people’s pets around them.
Focus on Customers
While I’m no business expert, I think Trupanion became the leading pet insurance provider in North America due to its laser-like focus on its customers, both human and canine.
One example is how it names its office conference rooms.
The room are not just named after a dog the company insures. They also contain stories about that particular dog or objects it loves.
The Edison Room is named after a Jack Russell terrier that’s 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:
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.
Stopping “Economic Euthanasia”
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.”
Economic euthanasia occurs 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.
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.
Non-Pet Owning Investors Not Wanted
My tour guide described how Trupanion CEO Darryl Rawlings raised capital for Trupanion.
Before starting the presentation for potential investors he asked everyone in the room to raise their hands if they have a pet. Darryl then asked those who didn’t have their hands raised to leave, saying, “I’m sorry, but unfortunately you just won’t understand what we do.”
I think that story exemplifies why Trupanion is such a successful company. 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. All photos are from Seattle DogSpot.