With a passion for dogs and outgoing personality Haylee Gaines is a perfect fit for her position as Customer Experience Lead at Smoochie Pooch in Crown Point. She’s learned the value of a team that acts more like family and the importance of enjoying life now, not later. I enjoyed getting to know who has influenced her most and laughing about how much we both enjoy our 4-legged friends.

LOCAL 219: Hi Haylee! What is your role here? 

HAYLEE GAINES: I lead the customer service experience team. I book all the appointments for grooming and help check in all the dogs. All that fun stuff.

L219: How long have you been here for?

HG: I have been here for almost two years.

L219: Nice! Was it circumstances, hobbies, or your childhood that led you to being in this position?

HG: I would definitely say it’s my passion for dogs. I have always grown up with dogs, so a huge fan of dogs. My best friend was actually a groomer here, so she got me in, and it’s easily the best place I’ve worked. I love everything about it.

L219: That’s awesome. I imagine you meet a lot of dogs?

HG: Absolutely.

L219: I would love that! Dogs make people so happy. How could you not love your job?

HG: Exactly! I get the best part: I get to say hi to them and pass them along to the groomers.

L219: What gets you out of bed in the morning? What gets you excited for the day?

HG: Honestly, coming here. I love what I do. I love seeing the dogs every single day. It’s actually a fun time here. It’s just a good place. I have amazing co-workers; it’s great experience, a great environment.

L219: I’ve been hearing more and more, when I do these interviews, about the value of a strong team. You said you have good co-workers. What do you think really makes a solid team?

HG: A lot of things. Communication, definitely. Even free lunch. Treating each other.

We’re a family here. We treat each other like family. We always have each other’s backs, no matter what. They’re great people.

L219: Sounds like you guys have got it figured it out. Who do you feel has had the biggest influence in your life?

HG: That’s a hard one to put out there. Definitely some teachers in the past, but my parents are my biggest influences. My mom is a hard worker. Of course, I thrive to be like them. They’ve been married 30 plus years.

L219: Goals.

HG: Exactly. They are amazing people. I would like to say me and my two sisters are good people. They’ve taught us well.

L219: What are a couple ways you feel like your parents have influenced you the most?

HG: They taught me values. To be a good person. Use my manners. They taught me to work for myself. You know, save money, do good things for myself. Also, to be able to enjoy myself. I make money to do things with it, you know. I love going on vacation. They taught me a lot about exploring. Those are the biggest ways.

L219: I’m so glad you’re making time to enjoy the money you’ve earned now. People will save all their vacation time and plan on this great retirement, but if we’re honest, hiking at 25 or 32 isn’t the same as hiking at 65 or 70.

HG: Exactly. I used to be such a money saver. I couldn’t even spend it, but then I was like, “What do I have this money for if I’m not doing anything with it?” It was doing nothing for me.

L219: What do you feel has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned while working here?

HG: I’ve learned quite a few, but how to deal with people. I’ve learned a lot about working with people. You have your nice customers and your not-so-nice customers. I think personal experience with people. I’ve learned to be a lot more open with other people.

L219: That’s something I learned along the way in customer service too. The more transparent and real you are the easier it is to build relationships and loyalty, because when you put on a show, or try and pretend, people see right through that and don’t truly feel taken care of. What do you enjoy most about what you do here?

HG: I enjoy who I work with the most. My coworkers absolutely make my day when I’m here. They’re the reason I’m here. If I didn’t have such amazing people by my side, who knows where I’d be.

L219: What I’ve seen is that a good team really gets to know each other personally. After a while life hit its bumps; whether it’s a disagreement with a significant other or your parents, a bad grade, or unforeseen circumstances. It’s important to connect and be real with each other.

HG: My co-workers probably know more about me than my best friends do. We talk about anything and everything.