19 September 2014

Interview with PetLynx Chair Thomas R. Trifaux

Meeting Thomas R. Trifaux, one observes the tenacity of a CFL Lineman, the enthusiasm and energy of an Executive Coach and the quick wit of an Experienced Businessman who is well read and well travelled. InfoStream met up with Trifaux on his way across Canada to Cold Lake, Alberta where he lives with his wife Jackie and their two dogs.

InfoStream (IS): As the new Chair of the PetLynx Corporation Board of Directors, you seem to be entering new territory. What interests you about taking on this role at PetLynx?

Trifaux (TRT): I have always been involved with ‘Offence’ whether it was hockey, football, executive selling or coaching senior management. Leading a team to deliver a compelling vision always excites me. With respect to the territory, I have to say it really isn’t new to me. I have been a PetLynx shareholder since the beginning and I’ve worked on several projects with the former President and CEO, Larry Evans.

IS: How would you describe PetLynx?

TRT: This is a great question. Since PetLynx launched its technology in 2006, there has been confusion and misunderstanding within the industry as to what PetLynx does. In fact, many in the urban animal industry saw PetLynx as a threat instead of what it truly is: a pipeline for delivering information, products and services to the largest user market in Canada. PetLynx is a digital pipeline capable of connecting all members of the urban animal value chain. This value chain grosses more than 50 billion dollars annually in North America. It includes pet owners, all those who serve pets and even those who govern behaviours in urban municipalities. PetLynx is different than proprietary (branded) websites because PetLynx does not offer ‘competing’ services. If you’re a pet health company you can use PetLynx today to connect with over 1,000,000 users knowing PetLynx doesn’t sell pet health services. In fact, all providers of products and services can offer unique value propositions to the largest possible market through the PetLynx digital pipeline. PetLynx is the only digital pipeline that can carry information and conversations both ways across the entire urban animal industry.

IS: With respect, that description doesn’t seem very technical.

TRT: I will accept that as a compliment. I think for most of its history, PetLynx has been working to overcome skepticism or to achieve acceptance as a technology instead of as a service. Visualize a glass of water. When you turn on a tap you expect water. You aren’t concerned about how the water came to be flowing into your glass or what technology was used to extract it, cleanse it or to make it widely available. You accept these elements have all been looked after so you can enjoy cool, clear water whenever it pleases you. Furthermore, none of us would try to live without access to water.

Obviously PetLynx can’t deliver services without robust technology. I think we need to understand that while technology is important, customer needs are only satisfied with a service that is readily available (ubiquitous), creates a positive experience and sustains a satisfying relationship.

IS: Other larger companies have established technology to serve clients, how does PetLynx think it can compete with these large brands?

TRT: That, my friend, is a very revealing question. I think when Larry Evans came along with his vision of a brand neutral information utility the greatest skepticism he faced was in this area. Everyone thought big money and persistent brands would endure for all time. Looking across the landscape now we can see this is not so! Some brands are no longer even present. Meanwhile, PetLynx has reached the tipping point with 1,000,000 users (roughly 10% of the Canadian market) and has achieved the lowest cost of acquisition in the industry (less than ten dollars). I can’t imagine something more disruptive.

IS: How can this achievement be explained?

TRT: Initially, management expected those who served pet owners to be the early adopters and promoters of PetLynx services. This expectation never materialized. Instead, pet owners eventually found the PetLynx Automated Recovery Service and became users in large numbers. These users provided PetLynx with the evidence to redirect and become consumer centric. PetLynx users have become the most valuable element of the Company which has become the most valuable pipeline for the urban animal industry.

IS: Tell us a little about the team you lead as Chair?

TRT: I lead a new board and I expect to add at least one other Director, so perhaps we can speak about Director’s in a few months after we have had some ‘rub’ time. However, I will provide my perspective on two executive leaders:

I am really looking forward to coaching and supporting Drew Van Niekerk as President/CEO. To me, Drew has the raw talent to eclipse many of the CEOs we know. While this is his first gig in a ‘C’ level role he has worked and rubbed shoulders with some of the very best CEOs in the business. Moreover, his 22 years at North Calgary/Associate Veterinary Clinics has shown him success is all about doing the right things at the right moment. He has made a substantial investment in PetLynx and I am confident that he is motivated to have a substantial and earlier payout from this investment than in AVC, his last play. I expect Drew is going to have fun promoting a positive pet experience, exploiting the digital economy and driving the PetLynx digital play.
The thing I feel most excited about is helping Larry Evans complete the 2016 Succession Plan he brought to the PetLynx Board in anticipation of reaching this tipping point. I have known Larry for most of my career. Like other close associates, I have observed his integrity, his tenacity, his ability to overcome great challenges and his ability to deliver impossible goals. To see him now have the opportunity to play the position he knows best, director of business development gives me a lot of satisfaction. I call Larry the ‘Creator of Favorable Environments’ and I think Larry is one of four or five people in all of North America with his level of brand development knowledge, business development acumen and social media experience. Everyone needs to be cautious when they perceive him as the ‘farm boy from Crossfield’. I’ve watched him design some of the most disruptive plays in history. He likes to hide out in his Blues Barn at Thunder Ridge away from the spotlight which is quite unusual for a futurist and social media guru. I know we’re all going to have real fun now that he has the opportunity to design programs and disrupt the status quo without the burden of running the company and driving the bus..

IS: Our final question would be, what is next for you and for PetLynx?

TRT: Well, I enjoy my activities in management consulting so I intend to remain active and successful in this career. I also see an opportunity to trade experience for value as the Chair of the PetLynx Board. My role will be to drive a fearless team of directors, executives and managers to achieve three things:
  • Creating value by adding 1,000,000 users in the next 24 months.
  • Raising and employing $8,000,000 of new capital.
  • Taking the company to a valuation in the range of $70,000,000 by 2017.

I am not a ‘digital native’ but even a ‘digital immigrant’ like me can see the disruption and opportunity PetLynx brings to the digital economy. The prospect of seeing PetLynx achieve great things will be very satisfying to me as a businessman and very productive for Jackie and I as shareholders of the Company.

IS: Thank you for taking the time to visit with us.

TRT: Watch us light this candle!

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