A Family Celebration

Mud Bay's annual Mudstock event gathers every member of the chain's staff for a day of learning, team-building and fun.


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On Aug. 20, every Mud Bay location will be shuttered for the day so that all 320 Mud Bay employees—affectionately called “Muddies”—can gather at Green River Community College in Auburn, Wash., for the company’s second-annual Mudstock celebration. An event that combines elements of education, team building and fun, Mudstock is a family reunion of sorts and serves as a great example of the company’s focus on empowering and engaging its staff to ultimately drive continued success for all.

“Everything about [Mudstock] is phenomenal,” says Maggie Crawford, manager of Mud Bay’s Lake Oswego, Ore., location. “The entire event is oriented toward staff empowerment and making everyone feel like part of a big family. We have such amazing family values in the store, and it is great to see that on a much broader level.”

This is a sentiment that is echoed by Marisa Doxey, manager of Mud Bay’s Greenwood store in Seattle, who points to the opportunity for networking with staff from every level of the organization as a major highlight of the event. “What Mudstock does is it brings everybody together, so people who work in the stores and work in the [company headquarters] get a chance to really interact and feel connected to one another,” she says, noting that this includes the company’s executive team. “Anybody can approach [the executive team] to present ideas or just get to know them a little bit better.”

In addition to comparing notes and taking part in team-building exercises with other employees from throughout the organization, staff members also get a chance to listen to an executive presentation on the direction in which Mud Bay—an open-book company—is going.

On the education front, Mudstock taps into staff members’ competitive side with fun contests that test staff on their knowledge of Mud Bay history, as well as the science behind the many solution-oriented products that the chain sells in its stores. “It helps us to understand dog and cat health, so we can help our customers,” says Doxey.

This understanding at the store level, says Al Puntillo, Mud Bay’s chief merchandising officer, has been critical to the company’s success. “So much of delivering the Mud Bay experience is founded on knowing how to help customers take better care of their pets,” he says.

The company’s vendor partners play a key role in the educational aspect of Mudstock. More than 90 manufacturers send representatives to the event’s partner fair, where staff members can get a hands-on education on a wide variety of pet products and see the newest introductions to the market. “It is an outstanding opportunity to meet with the manufacturers of products we deal with every day,” explains Crawford.

Unsurprisingly, the employee empowerment at Mudstock goes a long way toward making Mud Bay’s employees feel valued. “There are simply no words for how powerful it is in creating a sense of community,” says Doxey. “And it is so important to feel connected and valued.”

“It makes it clear that you are not just a number, but part of a larger team,” agrees Crawford, who notes that the positive impact is apparent on her store staff’s long bus ride home from the event. “Everyone comes home so elated, and it is clear that Mud Bay has gained their long-term loyalty.”

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