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saving animals with Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Saving Animals with BestFriends Animal Sanctuary – Julie Castle

No-Kill by 2025: BestFriends Animal Sanctuary

Miriam: [00:00:00] Hey friends, I am beyond excited today. Today we are gonna get to hear from Julie Castle and she is the CEO of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. And you guys know anybody who’s listened to my podcast knows that we always gift someone at the end of the podcast with a donation to either you know, pet planets or people an organization that helps with that.

And the one that we hear from like that we donate to an awful lot is best friends. So I’m beyond excited, Julie, that you would give us a little bit of your time. I know you’re super busy and just thank you.

Julie: You’re welcome. I’m really honored to be here today, so thank you so much for having.

Miriam: It’s, this is gonna be a great conversation.

The Background with Best Friends

So I, I’m gonna give a teeny bit of my background and then we’re gonna jump into your story. I mean, my background with best friends. I feel like I became exposed to your organization [00:01:00] probably between 10 years ago and 15 years ago, and it started out with things like Strut Your Mutt and things like that.

These, these programs that you, To sort of connect the unknowing public with the needs of animals. And at some point I started hearing things like we are gonna end senseless euthanasia here, here, here, here.

And then it became by the country 2025. You guys have an audacious goal and you’re gonna get there.

So let’s start there a little bit. Talk about. How, how you came up with this goal and how is it going? And then we’ll kind of go backwards from there.

Julie: So the, before I talk about 2025, I feel like I need to give a little bit of history in, in animal welfare. And I think, you know, it’s one of the few.[00:02:00]

Causes where there’s virtually an animal shelter in almost every community in America. And if, if you don’t have an animal shelter, you probably have that neighbor down the street that rescues cats or dogs, or has a cat rescue or a dog rescue. And so it really is such a universal cause, and it, and it’s so up, up, close and personal, you know, 80% of American households have a pet.

And so clearly the, the term “best friends”, they are our best friends.

[00:02:34] The Origins of Animal Shelters

Julie: And so the animal sheltering movement started about 150 years ago in back in New York City when There was a, an outbreak of rabies and the public was deeply concerned that there were dogs with rabies running around the streets.

And so they said, Hey, city officials, we want you to do something [00:03:00] about this. So the city hired bounty hunters. And these bounty hunters were getting a quarter ahead. They would grab dogs, they put ’em in a giant cage and dunk them in the East river. And that was the original means of population control.

And the public was outraged and said, Hey, that’s not exactly what we meant. You know, let’s look for a more humane solution.

And so what ended up happening is shelters started popping up all over the country.

Julie: The first shelter was in Pennsylvania, by the way. Sadly, the same thing was happening only behind closed doors.

These animals were going in to shelters and they were dying, and this methodology of population control went on for decade after decade after decade. Same thing, same shelter system.

Sheltering Animals in Kanab

Julie: Until [00:04:00] the founders of best Friends broke ground at the sanctuary in Kanab, Utah in 1984 and really asked the simple question of Why are we doing this?

Why are we thinking about the best ways to dispose of our best friends rather than the best ways to save our best friends.

And so that really was the, you know, they became this beacon of light in this, this system that needed massive disruption. And back then, in 1984, everyone thought they were, Crazy.

When I joined the organization, everyone thought we were crazy.

[00:04:39] Is “No-Kill” Even Possible?

Julie: You know, no kill isn’t possible. It’s ridiculous notion. It’s pie in the sky. And back then about 17 million animals were dying in America, even, even at in that era. And sadly, you know, they weren’t measuring, they weren’t counting how many animals [00:05:00] were dying.

They were measuring them by the pound. Essentially, oh my gosh. So animals would go in barrels. The weight would be measured. That’s how they were calculating, you know, the destruction of what was happening in, in America’s shelter system.

And so, you know, best friends started working toward, as you say, let’s start with a community and try to get a community no kill or a state no kill to prove its efficacy.

Let’s Prove It’s Possible with Best Friends

Julie: And so we. Set out to design programs both in our home state of Utah, in Los Angeles and all over the country. And back in 2007, there was one no-kill shelter that we were aware of out of 4,200 shelters in this country. And we basically started to develop programs from there. [00:06:00] And. We knew that more and more shelters were going no- kill, and there was momentum on our side.

And internally we were doing our own analysis of what we thought, you know, can we get this country to no kill? Like every shelter in every community?

Julie: And what we designed internally put us on a trajectory of 2030. And we had our annual conference in Salt Lake City. and I was about to go on stage and I was like, this was back in 2016 and I was about to announce to the crowd we can get there by 2030.

And I thought to myself, that is a really long way away. Yeah. And I made the decision on the spot to move it up five years.. And made the announcement without any of our staff [00:07:00] knowing and they were freaked out. Yeah. Like, Julie, this isn’t possible. This isn’t the, this isn’t the plan.

No Kill by 2025!

Julie: And so we went back and designed our, in our first meeting we said, okay, what’s the big picture that we need to solve for an incredibly Back then in 2016, nobody in this country knew how many brick and mortar shelters there were in America.

There was no documentation of that. Let alone how many animals were dying in America’s shelters. And so we set out with a team of volunteers and our staff to find every shelter in every community and figure out exactly how many animals were dying in those shelters.

The Best Friends Pet Lifesaving Dashboard

Julie: And we developed our pet lifesaving dashboard.

From there, it’s a massive data project. It’s a really cool visualization tool that anybody can [00:08:00] use. You go to our website@bestfriends.org, and you can look up your community in your state or any community and see how well that shelter is doing.

And it really, for us is a public engagement tool. It’s also a B2B tool for shelters to be able to use, but.

So that really is the premise of 2025 and our data drives our strategy. So absolutely we look at that data every day to to figure out what move we’re gonna make next. Yeah.

Miriam: Oh, I love this, and we’re gonna get into all of this. First of all, I mean, just something that I should have said at the beginning in the introduction.

You are a high level leader. I mean, you are dealing with budgets of, I mean, as of 2014, I think you had raised 132 million, so I bet that that number is a lot higher.

And how many, just really quickly, how many employees [00:09:00] and volunteers do you have with best friends, would you guess The volunteers part is a, is a game changer cuz it’s huge.

[00:09:07] Best Friends Animal Sanctuary: 900 Employees

Miriam: But so, so

Julie: when I started at Best Friends, I was the 17th employee. Wow. And today? Today we have. Over nine, 900 employees in about 48 to 49 states, depending upon the day. Yeah. So we are, we’re, we’re a rapidly growing organization and Absolutely. It’s, it’s a great experience. Yeah.

Miriam: So I think the important thing about this dashboard that you’re talking about is, You, you cannot create clarity for your company unless you have something you can measure.

What are we measuring to say, is this happening? And unfortunately, animal deaths is not useful “Animals saves” is a lot more useful and you can’t do that without knowing how many, you know, shelters. [00:10:00] There are the whole nine yards.

A Personal Story of Rescuing Animals

Miriam: When you were telling this story, I was thinking about when my husband and I were first married, and this will date us, but this was about

34 years ago we were in an apartment, no pets allowed. And I came home one day with this huge black lab that I found on the street, and he’s like, oh my gosh, we’re gonna get kicked out. We need to call animal control and whatever. And I said, we can’t. They’re gonna kill her. Gimme three days. I can find her a home.

And he’s like, no, no, no, they’re not gonna kill her. And I said, they will kill her. And Then he called animal control and they said, yeah, three days and we can put ’em down.

And that was everywhere, you know, until you guys really started doing what you were doing. That was everywhere. And at some point in time we got an animal shelter and they started creating foster opportunities for people.

And we’ve, I think we’ve foster. , I wanna go with 18 puppies and four adult dogs. And [00:11:00] all of them found good homes and many of them I’ve stayed in touch with and whatever.

All of those animals would’ve been euthanized.

And it’s because a group of people made the decision to say, yeah, I know this is what happens everywhere, but it doesn’t have to be, and we’re gonna change it.

Staying Friends 

So I wanna ask a little bit about. I think something you’ve managed to create is a company culture and employee employee engagement that is unusual.

Also best friends started as a group of friends who decided this is not okay. And a lot of times when friends go into business together, they either get married, divorced, or they hate each other at the end.

Like it’s unusual for people to stay friends. So what was it in this culture? That allowed people to stay friends and bond even more closely. What are you working on with your culture that’s making this possible?

[00:11:56] The Founders of Best Friends Animal Sacntuary

Julie: Well, I think it really goes back to our founders and [00:12:00] luckily we, we still have living founders with us who are involved in the organization, who are there for us as a resource to you know, really be our North Star.

And I think, you know, The, the, the sanctuary. If you haven’t been here, you really need to come. It’s, I have visited once. Yeah. In any other state it would be a national park. It’s got that kind of beauty and it’s a, you know, the sanctuary was built by a group of about 25 friends who Did all the plumbing, the electrical, framed up all the buildings.

They had no idea how to do this. They learned it all from time- life books or the local hardware store. It was built on grit and determination and really that recognition that they, there, there was something bigger than [00:13:00] themselves.

And that’s not to say that they didn’t have disagreements, they didn’t have knockdown, drag out fights. They did. And I think what really helped them together, That higher vision and you know,

it’s that, that African proverb of if you want to go quickly, go, go alone if you want to go far, go together.

And I think that they understood that they each had their own unique skillset that they could bring to the table that really created this environment of dependency on each other for success.

And with the highest value being, generosity and kindness.

And those are, those are our two highest values internally.

The Culture at Best Friends 

Julie: And so taking that from the founders, you know, for me as CEO, culture, My number one priority because if you don’t have a strong culture and [00:14:00] if you don’t take care of your employees, you have nothing.

You think about life and you, you go through high school, you may or may not go to college.

You graduate from undergrad or graduate school, you get your first job. You are working from that point forward until you’re 67 or 69, you’re spending most of your waking hours with a group of people that you don’t, you don’t really have any choice over, and then you retire and you maybe have 10 years left, 15 years left.

It’s kind of a, a really sour view of life, , but that means that where you choose to work and where you work should be incredible. The experience there, that’s delivered. Should be one of [00:15:00] respect, one of kindness, generosity where you feel safe and you feel like you’re, you’re truly taken care of. And so I feel like creating that platform and providing that for our employees is, is critical to me.

Something that we work on every day. I think people, when they feel that way, they show up they show up and do their level best every day.

Yeah, so that’s, that’s kind of a an outline of our culture and we really, really, really believe it and we really live it. Yeah.

Miriam: So let me throw out a question that will come with a statement, but first I wanna say clearly you’ve done a good job because you got the top place to work in 2022 award.

And that’s not easy. Out of all the companies in the USA one of the top places to work. That’s pretty cool.

I would love for you to give some specific examples of this, and I’m gonna back up just a second. I mean, I, those of, [00:16:00] I, I am a therapist as well as a executive coach, and I have worked with a lot of people who love.

Animals and a huge percentage of those people who love animals, hate people and don’t have a lot of good people skills. I’ve seen this in vet techs and I’ve seen this in like, you know, just all ranges.

And I, I mean, I love people, so I don’t, I don’t care. But I can see how it could be difficult to create a good functioning culture with people who love animals, but hate people, and obviously that’s not everyone, but tell me some of the things that you’ve done that help your team function as a team?

Teamwork at Best Friends 

Julie: Well, I think that, I think the biggest thing comes down to what you described earlier, which is oftentimes I encounter other nonprofits or people organizations that are in our same space or field and [00:17:00] I think one of the mistakes we make is we, we all are in this because we love animals.

We’re in this because we do wanna change the world and therefore I think we have a tendency to try and do too much mm-hmm. and we try to boil the ocean rather than super LA laser focused on what’s that big thing that we can achieve and let’s take out all the rest of the stuff and just focus on this goal that we can actually really get to, and I think that clarity of mission and that clarity of a goal unites a team better than anything that you can do.

[00:17:43] Clarity of Mission and Strategy of Best Friends

Julie: And so I think it goes to your strategy first. People need to understand why they’re there, what they’re doing, what they’re focused on. W what good looks like, what achievement looks like. I think setting those foundational things [00:18:00] really it that that’s the, that is the basic premise of building a really strong team.

And so to me that’s number one. Number two is once you have that, you can start going down the list and checking the boxes. Empowerment becomes huge, you know, really empowering your team based on that bigger vision. They’re gonna create their own roadmap map to success and, and it’s exciting to see, you know, how people become problem solvers once they know.

What direction they’re going, and so, To me that that’s the most important thing. Hmm.

Miriam: I love that. And I, if I can, I wanna give a specific example and then let you comment on that. In 2017, I was wanting to expose my daughter to, who was like a young adult at the time. She was in college. But I [00:19:00] wanted to expose her to.

Volunteering After Hurricane Harvey

Miriam: Traveling somewhere to help. And at that point, hurricane Harvey had just happened and Houston was under a ton of water. And I said, if I buy you a ticket, will you come with me and can we help in whatever way we can help? And she said, oh my gosh, yes. Let me just switch some things around. And she got off work and we, we flew from different cities, but met in Houston, gave each other hugs, and then made our way to this place that you guys had created. Oh, how cool. We walked in you guys had set up, I wanna say 500 kennels for dogs and probably 120 for cats. And these were all animals that had been abandoned or whatever, just they needed to be rescued. The hurricane came in and separated them from their people.

And one of the things that I saw as I talked with whomever was in charge. Everybody knew [00:20:00] their job. They handed us name tags and they handed us, they said, okay, go over to the cat enclosures and talk with so-and-so. And we went and talked with so-and-so and he said, these cages need to be cleaned out. So we cleaned them out and then when that was all done, we went to the next person who said, go over and talk to so-and-so.

And we talked to them and they said, these dogs need to be walked. And I think in an hour, Like 40 dogs. It was quick, you know, take ’em out, zip ’em around the block and let them, you know, pee and sniff for a second and get ’em back. And every dog got two walks a day at least. And the cats were cleaned out.

Focus Your Efforts

And the kid, you know, I mean, it was just a smooth machine and we couldn’t be there very long. And I wrestled because I said, You know, the money that went into these flights I could donate to you and it probably would go better. However, my daughter talked about it and showed pictures to all of her friends, and I thought, well, that is an act of spreading awareness.

And spreading to these young people. You can do things [00:21:00] like this. You don’t have to just go somewhere and spend money to spend money. Not, not that there’s anything wrong with a vacation, but you know what I’m saying. You can choose to focus your efforts in a way that will further something along. So I saw clarity and specificity and you know, it started with mission and then it got broken down into these little things.

I would love for you to share another story similar to that and maybe you could talk about N K L A. I thought that was brilliant, and if I understand correctly, you guys achieved your goal with that.

Julie: we did. And, and I have to say thank you for coming down to Houston and your daughter too. It was a really big effort on behalf of, you know, not just best friends, but a lot of animals welfare organizations and, and rescue groups.

And it, it was it was a lot of work. So, so thanks for doing that.

[00:21:55] Best Friends: No Kill Los Angeles

Julie: But yeah, I mean, I, nk l a. Ah, that was such a big [00:22:00] moment for us in so many ways. And just by way of background, so at the time I had been diagnosed with a very aggressive advanced stage cancer. Wow. I basically moved to LA to get treatment and while I was there, when I first got there, I just thought, you know, cuz at that point there, there was a lot of uncertainty as to whether or not I was gonna make it or how much longer I might have to live.

And I thought to myself, you know, I could sit here and feel sorry for myself and wallow in this and, and I was pretty young. This was in 2010 two, the end of 2009. Or I could like just continue to live the best life I can because to me it was [00:23:00] sort of emblematic of cancer winning. And so I remember talking to one of our founders who had really develop.

Programs in la. We didn’t have a physical presence back then, but we had a lot of, you know, super adoption events. Strut your Mutt, foster based programs, spay and neuter programs, and I said, Hey, you know, we’ve got this strategy for no-kill.

I think we need to go big or go home. And take Los Angeles, no-kill.

If we can take America’s second largest city, that’s 400 square miles, seven city shelters, 30% of the population is below the poverty line. The physical footprint, the geographical footprint of LA is enormous. We can do it anywhere there. Then there’s no excuse for anybody in the whole country.

and he was [00:24:00] like, are you crazy?

Achieve Your Vision

And you know, LA is also ha very well-known in the animal welfare space for being a, a tough city. You know, there’s lots of drama, lots of in-fighting, lots of politics, not a lot of love for each other there. So the first thing that. Did is I went around to. The, the key stakeholders in that community, the thought leaders in animal welfare, and there were about five or six folks who were leading relatively large organizations who kind of set the tone for that community.

And I can remember I’d just gone through my first or second chemo treatment. I didn’t have any hair. I looked terrible. I sat down with them and sort of painted my vision and really what I was doing was I was [00:25:00] importing the same vision and strategy that we’d used in Utah, which is, was very it was very data driven and very strategic and.

I described the, the vision to them and they were like, no, it’s never gonna happen in LA. It’s just, you know, we’ve been talking about this for 15 years. There. There’s too much love lost here. You know, too much in- fighting. We just sit around in these meetings and never achieve anything. And I said, look, I promise you, give me three months if we, if you don’t feel like we’re achieving.

Then we’ll, we’ll pack it up and call it good. And so I sat down with that group, that, that team of people, and we developed a strategy for LA based on the data. And we started meeting and started talking and started to get excited. About this. [00:26:00] Eventually we built a, we decided to involve the entire animal welfare community, which was comprised of about 160 rescue groups.

Doing it Together for Animals

So we had this whole coalition of everyone swimming in the same direction and people taking their piece. Mm-hmm. . So whatever skill they did really well. Okay. Over to you. We’re gonna support you. We’re gonna promote that. We’re gonna put money behind it. We’re gonna direct people to you. Rising tides, lift all boats.

We can do this, but only if we do it together. And we officially launched it in 2012 at the House of Blues with a whole cadre of celebrities like Hillary Swank and, you know, a, a bunch of A-list folks who really got behind this and.

And sure enough a city that [00:27:00] was taking in nearly 60,000 animals a year in those seven city shelters who had a save rate of about 52% is now above 90%.

Wow. Is it perfect? No. Are there still animals that should be saved in LA? Absolutely. But we hit that benchmark that we consider no kill. And it, it was definitely a huge moment for us.

Miriam: Oh my gosh. I love, love, love it because you’re right. If you can take LA who can, who has an excuse anywhere else? I mean that place just had so many problems.

[00:27:42] The “Bix Fix” – Neuter Your Dog!

Miriam: So one thing I noticed when I was in Houston that I had never seen before in my life. Were so many un neutered dogs. And later as I talked with people, they started saying, well, first of all, this is Texas and maybe it’s not as popular an [00:28:00] option to get your dog neutered.

They also felt like some of them were strays. It seems. Part of this initiative to end senseless euthanasia of healthy animals has to come down to having less puppies to begin with. And so I wondered if you could talk about some of the programs that you guys have done to help people with this to help awareness.

I know you had one called The Big Fix and I just would like to hear how you helped change public sentiment. About something that was very ingrained. No, I want my dog natural. It needs to be this way, blah, blah.

Julie: Yeah. I, I feel like it, you know, in the beginning when I first started working here, the problem seemed so overwhelming and it was, it was really, really overwhelming.

And, you know, seeing something like that in Houston you know, you, you think is the, is this ever. Really, truly be cemented in our national [00:29:00] fabric that we as the wealthiest nation in the world end this senseless killing of our best friends. And so when you, when you think back, when I think back on some of the early programs that we started, we, we were developing them to make it okay that it was not only okay, but it was cool to to fix your pets. Mm-hmm. , because you know, that is one part of the equation is getting your animals sped and neutered.

Neutering Animals in Utah

And so we, we hired an ad agency that we worked with and had a lot of fun. With them. And back in the day, you know, we had this mobile spay neuter clinic. It was one of the first in the country called The Big Fix, and it would travel around Utah offering discount spay neuter services to pretty much every community in Utah.

And so we would send out postcard mailers ahead of the, the big fix getting there. [00:30:00] And this agency helped us come up with, Like, because Utah has too many pregnant females,

and, you know, stuff like males fixed cheap. And it, it, it was you know, a humorous approach to a very serious topic. We did a lot of cool promotions with like Hooters. Hooters for neuters and that might, you know, rub. That’s awesome. Some people the wrong way. But we were targeting a very specific demographic, right?

That was the demographic that was likely. To not neuter their dog because the machismo factor. Mm-hmm. and, and, and, you know, we made a lot of progress. A lot of progress. And I think that today when we look at spay neuter, we’re, I think we’re much smarter about it, meaning that not every spay neuter is created [00:31:00] equal.

So, You know, we started looking at zip code areas and where most of the animals were coming from and into the shelter system. And then we were able to target those zip codes and do it in a cadence that mimicked the breeding cycle so that we could actually stop this hamster wheel, so to speak.

Keeping Up with Animals’ Breeding Cycles

Because if you just go into a community once a year, you’re wasting your money. You really are because you can’t keep up with that breeding cycle. Yeah.

So I mean, is that like every six to eight weeks you would be going in kind of thing or like add a few more words to that? So it just would depend on the community, the volume of animals, what type of animals.

You know, cats are obviously way more prolific than dogs and they’re also very seasonal. There’s seasonality to it. And so it, you know, when it comes down to it a lot of this is [00:32:00] targeting. Its formulas. It’s following the data. And really being smart about your resources because obviously we don’t have unlimit unlimited funds.

Mm-hmm. , no, no nonprofit does. So we’re always looking at things Through the eyes of what’s the biggest bang for our buck.

Miriam: For sure. So many times you’ve mentioned, you know, strategic thinking, strategic actions. I have a feeling that’s one of your superpowers, you know, in terms of how you approach leadership.

[00:32:32] Mentorship and Modeling at Best Friends 

Miriam: I wanted to ask some questions about leadership. Maybe What did you name a couple mentors or things you had modeled to you that really stuck with you about how to lead a company?

Julie: You know, I, I had a really great I had a really fantastic college experience. I went to Southern Utah University and I was, A little bit [00:33:00] nervous about attending that institution because I’d grown up near Salt Lake and Cedar City is a vastly different community than the, than the salt, than the Wasatch Front.

Sure. And I loved, loved, loved that college. And I had two incredible mentors.

One was the president of the university and the other one was one of the vice presidents. And. The president was J, his name was Gerald Shett. He’s since passed. He was such a visionary. He was one of those people who had the ability to, to look beyond this year or this decade and really Really dream big and, and it, and had a lot of the same qualities as a somebody like a Walt Disney and, you know, to create what he created was so fun to watch and be around.[00:34:00]

And he didn’t, he never went with what are our, what, what are our, you know, the SWAT thing. He never did that. Hmm. And honestly, Try to encourage my team to stay away from that in the beginning. Mm-hmm. , because you know, stay away from budget limitations, stay away from resource limitations. Let’s think about the solution here and what that looks like.

Empower People

Then we can back into solving for this other stuff. That was such a great lesson that I learned from him. Mm-hmm. The, the vice president, his name was Sterling Church. He’s still with us. He’s still a dear, dear mentor to me. And he was very, he taught me the, the art of trusting, but verifying with your staff.

[00:35:00] And really doing it, not looking over their shoulder, micromanaging here, here’s your roadmap. Here’s the end result. I’m looking for. You figure out how to get there. I’ll give you these very large guardrails and when we have our check-in meetings, I’m gonna be trusting, but verify.

That has been huge for me because there’s no way you can get to where you need to go if you don’t empower the folks that are smarter than me, more talented than me to actually get their job done.

And, and I think those two mentors really, really, at a very young age, helped me understand those two very, very, very valuable things.

Miriam: If everybody had those kind of people in their lives, you know, how different would our world look?

You know? So trusting, but verifying I assume [00:36:00] verifying has something to do with gimme an update. Where are we with this, this, or this?

[00:36:05] How to Course Correct with People

Miriam: If someone is taking. Maybe not a wrong term, but it is just isn’t where it needs to be. How do you maybe, course correct.

Julie: It’s so interesting that you bring that up because I think this is one of the hardest things for people to do and it’s really, I don’t know the root of it.

I don’t know if it’s a. Not wanting to hurt people’s feelings or, but I, this is where I feel like people just need to have a kind, honesty, and, you know, you don’t have to be upset. You don’t have to get brutal with people. It’s just about, hey, you know, This is off track. This is what we talked about last [00:37:00] time.

You know what? What’s challenging you to actually get to where you said you’d be and let’s talk about how we can fix it. And I think just that simple honesty is missing and so many. Relationships, so many management situations that, that I witness. And so for me it’s you know, that is the approach that I take with people who are my direct reports, and I think it’s, it’s vital to success.

Speak the Truth in Love

Miriam: Yeah, I would agree. It seems to me, as you model that with your direct reports, then they model that with their direct reports.

And it, I agree that there is just not a lot of. I kind of say speak the truth in love, you know, there’s speaking the truth or there’s, there’s kind of this love space and you need both of ’em in order to have a functioning company.

So let me think. One of the questions I wanted to ask you [00:38:00] also got an award for being one of the top women led companies in the us. Can you talk about maybe some of the challenges of that? You don’t find a lot of women CEOs, and I’m not entirely sure the reason why, but I would just like to hear your experience.

[00:38:21] Being Best Friends’ CEO as a Woman

Julie: Yeah. You know, this is some, this is a topic that I have a lot of energy around because I, I think it’s undeniable. You know, I was reading something the other day. There are more CEOs named Brad than there are women CEOs. Wow. And I, I don’t know if it was actually that name, but it was Right, right. Yeah.

The idea and, you know, and then you think about just women in society and you know, the fact that women couldn’t have a credit card until like 1972 or something. I, I can’t even believe that. [00:39:00] Hmm. That is there. There are some core foundational issues in our world around women and women’s role, a woman’s role in the workplace.

And for me, I think about, honestly, I feel. It is the essence of our founders and best friends that has allowed me to get to this position. So basically it’s sort of that proverbial, I started in the mail room and now I’m C E O. I basically have done virtually every job in this organization. Yeah. It is because they, and they are very it is a very matriarchal organization and always has been.

And there is a certain there is a certain collaboration that comes along with a women, women leaders, I believe. And it is [00:40:00] a less about a sprint to the finish and more about the, the essence of stronger together. And I’m not saying that men, men who are leaders don’t have these attributes, but I think there’s certain things that women do that should be celebrated more and valued more in the workplace.

Environment of Kindness and Generosity

And You know, sometimes some, sometimes the, the act of creating an environment of kindness and generosity and love, and again, I’m not saying men aren’t capable of that, but I think that is women’s innate nature. Mm-hmm. , it’s why we’re mothers. Mm-hmm. , it’s why we’re grandmothers. It’s that nurturing side of humanity that creates a, a, a beautiful.

and it’s the challenge is, is that I think those softer skills and those qualities [00:41:00] in a very, you know, competitive, capitalistic society are sometimes surround upon. Yeah.

Miriam: Yeah. I was gonna say , they’re hard to monetize those qualities. And in a capitalistic society, a lot of times people are chasing after that almighty dollar and they don’t appreciate collaboration unless it adds six, seven zeros to the bottom line.

Julie: As well. I, I, sorry, I, I think you’re absolutely right, but I think it does. I agree. Yeah. It, it does add it, but they don’t think it adds. Yeah. I mean, I think that’s where again, it might not be the, the most direct route, but it’s the most sustainable one. Yes. It might not be the most direct route, but it is the most sustainable one.

[00:41:51] Ways People Can Help in Shelters

Miriam: Absolutely. Well, let’s talk a teeny bit about, I wanna respect your time and we need to be done in a couple minutes, but When, if [00:42:00] people would like to help beyond just, I mean, I’m super big fan of go to the website, make a donation. Beyond that if people wanna help, what kinds of programs are you guys doing these days that people could be a part of?

Julie: So there’s so many different ways you can help no matter where you live in the country. We have an action team that’s called our 2025 Action Team that you can sign up for, which, You’ll get alerts about your community and you know, you can volunteer online, you can volunteer in person. There, there are virtually things going on all over the country every single day that are being led by best friends.

But, but also, I will say this, we are in the spirit of generosity, we are an organization that understands. That we are stronger when we build other [00:43:00] organizations to be stronger or help them become stronger. We have a network of over 4,000 organizations across the country, and a lot of these organizations are, they’re either rescue groups or municipal shelters.

Helping Organizations Like Best Friends

Rescue groups are always in need of donations, supplies, and volunteers. I promise there’s one in your community that could use the help. On the other hand, municipal shelters. While they’re publicly funded, they are desperate for volunteers in foster homes and people coming to help their staff clean kennels.

They’re usually way too underfunded. If you live in any, any community in America is gonna have a shelter or rescue group. Group that’s desperate for your help, I promise.

Miriam: Yeah, and what I think is great about that is let’s say you don’t wanna clean kennels, go volunteer to walk dogs, and if you don’t wanna do that, go [00:44:00] volunteer to feed kittens bottles.

You know? And if you don’t wanna do that, and you like to shop, go buy paper towels and dog food. And if you don’t wanna do that, foster an animal. And if you don’t wanna do that, tell your neighbor who loves animals about it so that they can do it. Like there’s just so many levels where people could get involved.

Julie: Or marketing, or we need data entry or accounting or, you know, every nut and bolt situation you can think of that makes a small business run is what a rescue group needs.

Closing the Gap

Yeah, and so it, it’s just we can do this. There, there are 17 million animals are gonna be acquired this coming year by Americans. There are 350,000 animals dying in our shelters. That we can close that gap. Yeah. We are really close.

Miriam: When you went from years ago, 17 million animals dying and now you’re down to 300,000 [00:45:00] dying a what an amazing, amazing job you guys have done and.

B 300,000 animals is a lot of animals. I mean, for those of you who aren’t watching the video, Julie’s German Shepherd has come in and said hi probably six times and it’s an amazing animal that you rescued, you know? And right now, pretty much, I mean, I think we have. I’m gonna go with five or six or seven rescues.

Not all dogs. We live on a little farm and we have all sorts of animals, but yeah, 300,000 is too many, so.

All right. If, if I have your permission, I would love to ask a coachy question because I’m a coach, so I love coachy questions. Sure. Okay. In between now and this goal of no kill 2025 or whatever you see as your personal next level of growth or your future.

[00:45:55] Mindset and Your “Why”

Miriam: Everybody has these internal mindsets that govern our [00:46:00] emotions and our behaviors, and I was wondering if you would share a mindset. Like, it’s not necessarily a switch, but it’s a bridge. Like I struggle to think this way and I’m working on thinking this way, but instead, I tend to think this way. Like, can you just share a mindset that sometimes gets the better of you that you work on?

You know, living in B but you struggle with a, does that make sense?

Julie: It makes total sense. And so I’ll, I’ll just give you a quick, just a quick story. I ended up at best Friends because. I’d finished undergraduate and I was on my way to law school at the University of Virginia Law School, which I’d been working toward for years.

And my friends and I decided to go to Mexico as one last hurrah. And we took off in my 1979 Dodge Colt, which had a different, I’d been in so many accidents, it had a different color panel. [00:47:00] We got down there, realized we ran outta money, had to. Jump in the car, drive 1800 miles back. We had just enough money for gas in a candy bar each.

Wow. And one of the friends that I was with begged us to stop at this sanctuary in southern Utah, and none of us wanted to. We were tired and hungry. We pulled in and it was so magnificent. And the vision of the founders and their ethic, I called my dad from a payphone after that visit. And I said, dad, I’m not going to law school.

Moving to Kanab

I’m moving to Kanab, Utah and I’m gonna work for the animals. And he was not happy . But the point is, my mindset challenge is that I have been here since I was a, I was a kid. I was a little baby, you know, I started out here I was really poor. I lived in a van for the. [00:48:00] Several months showered at the local gym.

My first paycheck was 183 bucks. I really hadn’t had any professional experience. I worked in every area of the organization, and so a lot of this is kind of self-taught or looking at people that I can emulate, or mentors that I have, or you know, other leaders that I call. So because I, you know, haven’t had sort of that executive training, there are moments where I’m like wait, is this real?

Like, are are the founders aware that you know this person. I pr, I don’t know if I had sent it an application to be c e o here, that I’d be c e o. Yeah. And so that creeps into my head as a, a moment of doubt, I’ll be honest. And, and you think about, you know, wow, this is such a cool opportunity and cool [00:49:00] experience, but you know, or Yeah.

Miriam: Oh my gosh, Julie, I appreciate your willingness to be vulnerable like that. I’m working with a coach right now who says, stop trying to get rid of imposter syndrome, because imposter syndrome means you are stretching and reaching for the next biggest thing. Mm-hmm. . And if you didn’t feel like an imposter, you would have.

Your Purpose

you would be coasting. And those words have really helped me, as I’ve said, who am I to coach executives or high performing people? You know, who, who am I to? Whether they’re, it doesn’t matter, founders or et cetera, et cetera. That message of Imposter syndrome means your stretching has been really helpful for me.

And I gotta say, Julie, look at the numbers they speak for themselves. The amount of money you’ve been able to raise, the amount of employees, the amount of awards. [00:50:00] Wow. It’s pretty impressive. Thank you. Before, before we get off, is there something I didn’t think to ask you that you would like to speak about?

Julie: I think the greatest gift that we can give each other is to recognize that you’re, you’re here on this earth for a purpose and helping others and yourself find what that grand passion is, is probably the greatest gift you can give somebody.

Miriam: Tremendous. Tremendous With that, we’ll end in the show notes, we’ll have all the links to your organization and ways that people can help.

I asked you beforehand, we would like to make a donation in your name to one of five charities and you chose the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. So we’ll, I’ll get off this podcast and we’ll make a donation to them and you’ll get updates on your baby Elephant [00:51:00] who’s been rescued from poaching and I think you’ll love it.

I think you’ll just love those updates. And for anybody listening, go check out the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and also check out best friends org. Thank you so much.

Julie: What a great opportunity. I love talking to you. It was so much fun. Thank you. Oh, agreed. The same.

End Credits

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Music by Tom Sherlock.

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