It was early evening and Theo was lying under his favourite lamp post waiting for his little friend Ernie. He was later than usual. Theo, though, was happy watching the sun’s late Autumn rays burst through the surrounding trees and basking in their warmth.
Ernie eventually toddled around the nearby corner. Theo noticed he was going slower than usual and his head was quite low.
“Hello Ernie,” Theo said, “you look a bit tired – is everything okay?”
Ernie looked up when he heard Theo’s greeting and his tail gave a little wag.
“Oh, yeo Theo,” he replied, “yes, I am fine. It’s just been a very busy weekend!”
Ernie decided not to answer Theo’s question. This was because Ernie couldn’t recall if he really didn’t know why Theo had forgotten he was going to the Family Pet Show – or he did know the reason but had forgotten it (in which case Theo would not be happy with him). So, for once, Ernie decided silence was the best policy
In fact, Theo had actually forgotten something. He’d attended a weekend conference on strategic planning in Suffolk. Theo had found it very thought-provoking. Consequently, he hadn't been thinking about much else since he got back. He was certainly glad he’d sent Ernie to the Family Pet Show and he'd gone to the conference. Strategy wasn’t really Ernie’s thing but he had asked Ernie to report back on how the Family Pet Show had gone.
“How was the event then Ernie?” Theo asked with a curious look. “Were our pet accessories in demand? What sold best?” he went on.
“Oh Theo, it was so busy I was dizzy,” Ernie replied. “I saw loads of my mates. Flossie came down on Sunday and picked up a new collar and lead set. She was so excited she couldn’t stop jumping up and down.
Lots of humans came by our stall to look at our bandanas and bow ties.”
“That is good news Ernie. We’ve never done a show with so many other pet companies there. Was there a lot of competition?” Theo asked, giving Ernie a penetrating stare.
Theo had learnt about something called "competitor analysis" at his conference. He was keen to apply it to Ernie and Theo’s. You just have to grasp these nettles when your name’s over the door and you are trying to grow the business.
“Oh yes, there were lots of competitions Theo,” Ernie replied excitedly. “They had one for the most obedient dog, one for the best-looking dog, one for the scruffiest dog, and so many more I can’t remember them. They had ferret and rabbit races too.”
“Lots of competition then,” Theo said shaking his head. He knew he’d been asking a lot of Ernie to keep any eye on how well Ernie and Theo did at the pet show. He decided to repeat his question but in words Ernie might understand.
“Were other people selling pet accessories like ours?” he asked. “If so, what were their designs and prices like?” he added.
“Oh yes there were some others Theo,” Ernie replied to Theo’s first question. However, he had so much to tell Theo about the show that he forgot about Theo's second one.
“There were so many stalls with treats and food Theo, you’d have loved it. Everyone was very friendly and kept giving me lots to eat,” Ernie explained excitedly. “I also met some mates I haven’t seen before.
I met the Giant Turtle family. They were a bit scary though because they were all bigger than me but they didn't seem to do much!
I also said hello to some ponies. They didn’t say ‘hello’ back though. Mind you, they all needed their fringes cutting, so maybe they didn’t see me,” he went on.
Ernie was talking so fast he was tripping over his words - and he’d had his fringe cut the week before so could see perfectly.
“I met an alpaca too,” he reported after pausing for breath. “There were quite a few of them actually and they had CRAZY haircuts!! Mind you Theo, to be honest, once you’ve seen one alpaca you’ve seen them all. Lots of humans also stopped to say hello to me. It was tiring but so exciting. I even saw a tiger.”
Theo had been sat quietly and patiently listening to Ernie. However, he jumped up at the mention of tigers.
“You saw a tiger at the Family Pet Show?” he said with a worried look on his face. “That's is dangerous. Was he in a cage?”
“No, he was on a wall,” Ernie replied, a bit puzzled about why Theo looked so worried.
“I wouldn’t call a tiger a family pet!! What was he doing on the wall at the show? Had he escaped from his cage? Did the organisers try to get him down?” Theo asked in a concerned voice. “You are only a little Cavapoochon. You must have been terrified when you saw him. No wonder you forgot to look at our competitors’ bandana and bowtie designs and prices,” he said, remembering the question Ernie had forgotten to answer.
“No, he was on a wall outside,” Ernie replied. “One of my pet-humans took me for a long walk during the show,” he explained. “We went past a big building called ‘Kellogg’s’. There was a large tiger on the wall outside.”
“Oh, I know him!! He’s not a real tiger Ernie. He’s ‘Tony the Tiger’,” Theo said in a relieved voice, laughing. “He advertises breakfast cereals for humans. That’s what they make in the big building you saw him on,” he explained.
“Tony looked a very friendly tiger to me. He had a big smile on his face,” explained Ernie. “He must have visited our stall at the show Theo , although I don’t remember seeing him,” he went on.
“Why do you think Tony visited our stall?” a thoroughly confused Theo asked.
“Because he had a bandana on, and it looked quite new to me,” Ernie explained.
Theo was getting more confused with every new word Ernie spoke. “I don’t want to disappoint you Ernie, but I don’t think he got his bandana from us,” he explained.
“What makes you say that Theo?” Ernie asked.
“Well Ernie, I know our bandanas come in many sizes,” Theo explained, “but we don’t do one big enough to fit a tiger!”
“I thought we could personalise everything?!” Ernie said, emphasising his last two words.
Theo was stunned. Ernie remembered one of Ernie and Theo’s “unique selling points” - another phrase he learned from his conference.
“Well, you’re right Ernie, we can personalise any of our products,” Theo replied, “but the humans wouldn’t have had time to make Tony a bandana during the show - especially if they didn't take the sewing machine with them!”
“Oh right, that’s a shame because it was a very nice bandana,” said Ernie, a little crestfallen.
Theo could see that his little friend was disappointed so he decided to try to cheer him up by changing the subject.
“Well then Ernie, after all you saw, do you think we should do the Family Pet Show again next year?” he asked.
This was a big question for a little Cavapoochon. He scratched his chin, deep in thought.
“Yes, I think we should Theo,” he replied after a long pause.
“Why?” asked Theo.
Ernie wasn’t used to Theo asking all the questions. He was getting very sleepy but he thought he had a clever answer for Theo.
“Well, because next year we can both go together,” Ernie replied. “You’ll have so much fun Theo, you really will,” he went on, warming to his theme. He then took a deep breath and added “Oh, and you won’t have to ask me so many questions about it. I can’t have fun and remember everything too you know. I am only a Cavapoochon you know!!”
“I am sorry for asking so many questions Ernie, I really am”, Theo said smiling. “But you know, making our customers happy is a very serious business. We have to try to stay one step ahead,” he explained.
Ernie nodded – although whether to signal that he understood and agreed with Theo or was close to sleep is hard to say. He tried to stifle a yawn, but stifling wasn’t really Ernie’s thing so it came out very loudly.
“Come on Ernie, let’s go home and get our tea shall we eh?” Theo suggested.
Ernie’s head shot up and his eye’s brightened. “Why don’t you always ask me easy questions like that Theo! We got some lovely free food samples at the show, come around to my house and we’ll try the ones I've not eaten yet” he cried.
And off they trotted, with Ernie describing in great detail all the culinary canine delights that awaited them.