C. Craig Lambert
C. Craig Lambert, owner of Creature Comforts, interviewed by C-Suite Network's Gregg Greenberg

Aside from being a husband and wife team, the Lamberts "married" their respective careers to launch Creature Comforts. Donna was a practicing veterinarian and Craig was a corporate executive, and together they had the perfect intersection of skills and experience to run their South Carolina-based pet care and boarding facility.

The inspiration for to start a pet resort came from a dilemma in the Lamberts' life: They had two Labradors and couldn't find anywhere nice to board them. In a recent interview with CO—, Craig Lambert said he and Donna simply wanted a place to board their own pets.

"We decided to build a place together," Lambert said. "We've got 47 [pet] hotel rooms – we play about six hours a day. Dogs are not confined [and] we have a great setup for cats, as well."

Building and growing the dream

Funding is often a big challenge for new business owners, and it was no different for this entrepreneurial couple. Although he was debt-free before he launched Creature Comforts, Lambert had to borrow money to get the business off the ground.

"One of the biggest challenges … [is] being willing to take that risk," he said. "That's what an entrepreneur does."

Another milestone on Creature Comforts' path to success was expanding the team beyond Craig and Donna. According to Lambert, it was all about finding "the right people in the right seat on the right bus" – and that means providing opportunities at all levels.

"We … have [some] stepping stone jobs – not every job is a career," he said. "But, we also have veterinarians. So we've got entry level all the way up to doctors."

We've always structured our business around the lifestyle that we want to live and that our team members want to live

C. Craig Lambert, CCVRS

The importance of employee empowerment

Lambert noted that Creature Comforts has a relatively low turnover rate, with some employees staying with the business for years. How do they keep people around? They empower their staff to be ambassadors within and outside of the business. For Lambert, it's more important to help his employees figure out solutions for themselves than to tell them directly how he would approach an issue.

"If folks come into my office and have a problem, of course I can answer it, but my question back to them always is, 'What do you think we should do?'" Lambert told CO—. "Normally, it's the right answer, [but] we don't ever punish people for making … an honest mistake. [It's] a lesson learned."

This concept of employee empowerment has become very important to Lambert. In fact, it's one thing he says he wishes he'd done differently when he first started the business: Had he empowered staff to start doing things on their own sooner, it might have made those early years of "working 100 hours a week" a little easier.

Overall, though, Lambert feels he and Donna have made a lot of good decisions in the 10 years they've been in business, both for themselves and their employees.

"We've always structured our business around the lifestyle that we want to live and that our team members want to live," he said. "Their families are important to us. Our customers' families are important to us. It's a very personal and emotional business."

Looking ahead

Like many brick-and-mortar business owners, Lambert has big dreams of expanding to additional locations – but not until they can do it with their own money.

"Our growth plans are to be totally debt-free and not build any more [locations] until we can pay cash for [them]," said Lambert. "It's always capital … that's the challenge."

Watch our full interview with C. Craig Lambert to learn more about he grew and marketed his business. This interview was conducted on behalf of CO- by C-Suite Network's Gregg Greenberg.

C. Craig Lambert, owner of Creature Comforts, interviewed by C-Suite Network's Gregg Greenberg

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Published February 25, 2019