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The Big Challenge

With the rapid growth of the Pet Specialty industry in recent years, Petco observed a real opportunity to take the leadership position in the market. Petco’s efforts began by creating alignment at the senior leadership level to develop a clear message about the marketplace and their strategy, and then a plan to engage customers. Once established, this strategy and associated initiatives were cascaded down through the Petco organization.

With the new strategy and vision set firmly in Petco’s culture, the next step was to develop the manager skills and capabilities of all people-leaders to ensure their ability to lead their teams to achieve the vision.

  • Petco sought to develop managers across all levels across their business, including their stores, national support center, and distribution centers.
  • The focus on managers stemmed from the understanding of the service profit chain:
    • Engaged and well-trained managers create engaged and knowledgeable frontline employees.
    • This leads to increased customer engagement and satisfaction.
    • Satisfied customers drive sustained profitability and growth.
    • Great people-leadership was viewed as the most critical factor to their long-term success.

Disruptive Methods

Our Immersive Process

Petco selected the Root Compass Manager Development Program to meet this business need and named the rollout, “Leading at Petco.”

  • The one-and-a-half-day experiential-based program gave managers the opportunity to:
    • Focus on the business
    • Gather new insights about their role
    • Learn how to connect their teams to the business in relevant and meaningful ways
    • Acquire new skills
    • Share best practices with their Petco peers
    • Improve their leadership capabilities.
  • The simple and practical modules took a “context-content-practice-apply” approach – providing managers with insights and exercises in the sessions as well as tools to apply to their day-to-day jobs.
  • Petco opted to carefully customize Root Compass® for its culture, including Petco terminology, incorporating Petco-specific programs, and using realistic customer and internal business scenarios.

Mid-level and executive leaders throughout the business were teamed with associates from Petco’s Learning and HR function and were trained to facilitate the workshops. This leader-led approach ensured buy-in and support from the managers and signaled to the entire organization that Petco was committed to the program.

“From the corporate perspective, Leading at Petco has enabled us to accelerate the implementation of our retail business strategy and ensure consistent understanding and interpretation across all 1,000+ stores and support functions. Core to our strategy, Leading at Petco has succeeded in creating a solid foundation of skills and expectations for leaders at all levels and has provided us with a definite competitive advantage.” Charlie Piscitello, Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer


  • Root Compass® was rolled out across the entire organization and continues to be executed to all people-leaders.
  • More than 1,500 Petco leaders have experienced the Root Compass® program in groups of 10 to 40.
  • Petco experienced unprecedented performance including:
    • Manager Effectiveness Up — 8%
    • Employee Engagement Up — from 75% to 84%
    • Customer Loyalty Index Up — from 70% to 80%
    • Turnover Down — 30%

“Immediately after the initial roll-out, we saw more confident managers and more engaged associates, and our customer satisfaction metrics have improved markedly across the board. We have also had one of our best years ever. All of these indicators speak for themselves,” said Piscitello

Feedback during the sessions was extremely positive, and the program has generated huge momentum throughout the organization. The blended, high-touch, interactive program ensures that the sessions are fun, provocative, practical, and most important, effective.

District Manager Roy Kerslake said, “The Leading at Petco program has been huge.”

“My managers exude a confidence that I have not seen before, and are now spending time developing their people rather than policing them. Employee engagement has improved and our customer sat scores are also tracking higher. I’m certain that is not a coincidence,” he said.

Manager feedback was equally positive. An example: “Leading at Petco was awesome and exceeded my expectations. It is truly a great program that has been tailored to Petco and our goals. The role playing was great! Using actual examples of challenges we face in our store made it real and not just some silly exercise.”

Disruptive Methods Applied

More deeply rooted thinking

People Development
Customer Experience


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