Dogged Dedication

Dan Rubenstein is kneeling on the sidewalk with a small bulldog and a small collie
Kind To K9s: After business grad Dan Rubenstein lost his beloved dog, he changed careers to help others

In summer 1999, technology consultant Dan Rubenstein 94BBA hired a dog exercise company to visit his apartment every afternoon while he was at work and take his three-year-old, 172-pound St. Bernard, Sydney, to a dog park.

In late July, with the temperature topping one hundred degrees in Chicago, he canceled that day’s appointment. Unbeknownst to him, the company failed to follow his instructions and sent an employee to pick up Sydney. The next morning, Sydney died from catastrophic organ failure due to heatstroke. Devastated but determined, Rubenstein responded to the loss in an extraordinary way. To help ensure nobody else experiences a similar nightmare, he left his lucrative corporate career to work in dog day care.

Twenty years later, Rubenstein is the founder and CEO of PUPS Pet Club, overseeing a staff of nearly seventy employees who provide pet care services to thousands of dogs throughout Chicago. Driven by an appetite for competition—Rubenstein has completed more than thirty triathlons and counting—and a passion to honor Sydney’s memory, the entrepreneur is considering national expansion. Here’s a quick Q&A with Rubenstein by Greg Forbes Siegman:

GS: How would you describe your experience at Emory?

DR: Exactly what I hoped college would be—extremely challenging, but liberating.

GS: What led you to choose Emory in the first place?

DR: Growing up in Connecticut and New York, the cultural fabric of the East Coast is embedded in me. But I wanted to experience a different part of the country. I strongly believe the only true way to grow as a person is to be open to something that has the potential to make you uncomfortable. Once I made that decision, choosing Emory was easy—a top school in a great city with a temperate climate and friendly people.

GS: Your transition from consulting to pet care reflected that same mindset—walking away from the certain to pursue something new. Did you have any second thoughts?

DR: I risked everything—even gave up my apartment and lived at the business to save money—but I had no hesitation. I knew I would succeed, because I had my mind set on it.

GS: In the pet care industry, are you still able to use what you learned at Goizueta Business School?

DR: Absolutely. I use what I learned about financial modeling on an almost daily basis.

GS: Has your participation in triathlons influenced you as a business leader?

DR: I’m more disciplined, focused, efficient, and goal-oriented. Triathlons give me real-world practice adapting under pressure. When I train for an Ironman, I prepare for months, but just like in business, unforeseen challenges happen during the race and I must be ready to pivot or adjust.

GS:  What do you like about dogs?

DR:  I’ve been enamored with dogs since I was five and my family got a sheepdog named Ruben. I love that dogs live in the moment and communicate very directly.

GS:  As PUPS Pet Club expands, how do you ensure your employees are driven by the same passion?

DR:  Keeping a great team in place will be our greatest challenge as we grow. The answer is to have a solid hiring process that identifies high quality candidates, initial and persistent training, competitive compensation, and a great culture that keeps attrition low.

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