For Liliane Vidicek and John Finlay, the moment happened at a dog park. Which was only fitting, because in just a few short months they would become partners in a dog boarding business, Bark Place Hotel and Spaw. When Liliane's puppy Spooky bounded over to John, who happened to have a new puppy of his own, it was the beginning of both a friendship and a business partnership.
"There was an instant simpatico between us," says Liliane. "I saw how he was with the dogs and my dog loved him."
Liliane lives in Leslieville, the Toronto neighbourhood with the most dogs per household. But she couldn't find an overnight kennel where she felt comfortable leaving Spooky. Making him sleep in a cage just didn't have the right home-style feel. Instead, before heading to Europe for seven weeks, she asked John to dog sit. When she returned to a happy, well-adjusted pooch, she knew immediately that she and John could work together.
"I probably did all the things you're not supposed to do," says Liliane, laughing. "Fly by the seat of your pants. Feel the opportunity. We just sensed each other's nature."
"It's sort of like dating," says John. "You spend some time together and you go on the gut feeling of what you think."
Liliane had a sales and marketing background, but she'd always wanted to work with dogs. After her husband died, she started to reconsider her professional priorities. Meanwhile, John had worked with animals throughout his life, even considering becoming a vet, but his dyslexia prevented him from pursuing it.
"We sat down and discussed it," says Liliane, recalling one of their first business meetings. "Where do you see your strengths and what can you bring to the table?"
Together, they opened the crate-free Bark Place Hotel and Spaw in May 2011. With a staff of nine ready to shake a paw or clip a nail at a moment's notice, four-legged guests are taken for park runs twice a day. But not all tail-waggers are accepted at Bark Place, no matter how cute they might be. If they don't have their vaccinations or they don't play well with others, mutts and their masters are told gently but firmly to move along. In order to be nearby in case of doggie distress, John lives in the apartment upstairs.
"I'm a hands-on kind of guy," he says. "I like to work with the animals."
"When it comes to dogs he's the expert and has the definitive last word," says Liliane. "On the other hand, I'm the marketing, business, financial admin person and employee manager. We have strengths in completely different areas, which I knew would make a really good partnership."
But beyond the logical reasons to explain their complementary work connection, Liliane and John feel the intangible energy of their attraction was the strongest pull toward partnership.
"Spiritually our philosophy is the same, about how to manifest in your life," says John. "We both had death in our background, prior to meeting. That changes you. You start looking at things a little differently: spiritually, mentally."
Liliane sums it up: "I had no doubt it was a good business, but what drove us was the passion for the dogs."
By YouInc Columnist Tiffany Burns