Episode 8 – Lynn Olenik

Lynn Olenik talks with us about what it is like to be an executive director of an animal shelter. She gives insight into the operations of the Humane Animal Welfare Society (HAWS), how she got to her position as executive director, what skills, training, and talents are needed to manage a shelter and how you can get involved with your local shelter. To learn more about HAWS you can visit their website, https://hawspets.org/

Check out this episode!“Welcome to the Professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where goal is to introduce you two amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This’ll Podcast is probably sponsored by do bert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue really transport. Now on with our show. In today’s episode, we’re speaking with Lynn Olenick. Lin is the executive director of the Humane Animal Welfare Society, also known as Hawes. Located in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Lin has been involved in animal sheltering for over 20 years and has been in Potter pause for the last 14 years. As the executive director, Loon has always had a passion for animals, and it started with their own dog training business, and through working as a veterinary technician, Lin had the opportunity to fill the role is the egg interim director. Road haws, which led her to where she is now is the full time executive director. Highland. Welcome to the program, Chris. Thanks for joining us. So tell me a little bit about you. Give us some of your background. Well, I’ve been involved with sheltering. For over 20 years, I’ve been here at the Humane Animal Welfare Society. We call a pause for 14 as executive director. Okay, And how did you get into this? Is this something I always wanted to dio that in my wildest dreams Did I sink up? I wouldn’t think I would end up here. Where did you start? What were you going to do? Well, as a kid, just like everybody else who loves animals, I wanted to be of that. But in the Dark Ages, they really only took a few people from Wisconsin to the Minnesota bad school because we didn’t have a vet school here. And of those two or three people, they usually didn’t take women. I go back to the Women’s Rights Generation where women just didn’t really always have the same opportunities as men. Fortunately, that’s all changed. And really, in the humane industry, women outnumber men, probably for the one which is interesting. So it actually is a really good opportunity for a woman with a business mind to be able to lead. But I started with dog training when I was 15 and I had my own dog training business. I worked ism that tech. I worked in a dog kennel. I also did 15 years with McDonald’s Corporation, where I learned to manage chaos. $2 million a year, done in $3 increments per customers, a lot of people, a lot of staff and a very, very fast pace, which really was a good training ground for managing people in a humane society. Because things here happened quick. So 14 years ago, you just decided one day, you know, I’m gonna go overto Hawes and see if they have a need. Well, 14 years ago, I was running a training business dog training business, and I was on the fence with whether to continue it or not. It was at that three year breaking point where investing get bigger or keep it the same size and, you know, make it a minimum income, you know, part time income type of situation, because just at that point where you need to make a financial investment or back off, I had been involved with my background is HR Human Resource is I had worked at the Embers Humane Society also, and I worked at Washington County for a short time with my background. I got recommended to come fill in as an interim director for a few months while they did a national search for a director for here because there was some HR issues that they wanted to clear up. I was here for about six weeks. I interviewed. They decided that they like me and they kept me 14 years later. Years later, I am here, So I did have a background in public. Cal’s public dog training. I did work in a vet clinic, but those were all part time things that I did while I was learning business Business Background from McDonald’s Corporation Finishing up my education and you know, you can take a little bit of what you do in every job and pull the best things that you’ve been learned out of every job, and you’ll have an opportunity to apply them at some point. Yes, so tell us what’s a day in the life of a shelter director like, What’s your What’s your job like? Well, first job I have is to get up and get my four dogs ready for work, usually at least to come to work every day. usually not all four, but two or three. That’s one of the perks of working for humane society is I have an office I can bring my fuzzy friends, so that, to me, is just It’s just great to be able to bring your dogs to work with you. It’s It’s a fun thing, and most of my staff work 10 hour days. They worked for tens, so they get to bring their dogs. If you work in the candle and you don’t have an office, you can keep him in a kennel. If you work in an office, you can keep him in your open. So it’s just a nice thing. It’s something that we do for employees. And again, if you can’t do it, a humane society. Where could you do it? And more places should let you bring your dogs to work. So that’s That’s gold. One is getting out of the house with the fuzzy kids. So once I get here, I really try to take a walk through the building. And the building has gotten quite a bit bigger. Over the last few years, we’ve had two major expansions and 11 minor one and We have a lot of different things that we do but kind of get a pulse for where everybody is for the day, how the staff are all doing what the flow was like, um, and then hit email and see what wonderful things that have broken overnight from everywhere, just like everybody else in the world does, and predominantly in my position. Now it’s about organization, development, employee support and looking for funding. Whether that be grants, whether that be working with donors, bequests for corporations. We have a $2 million budget. We do not get a check from the county. We get 110,000 blood. With that, You know that leaves us, you know, 1.9 million that we have to find. And some of that comes through adoption fees, but not much, because adoptions usually cost us more money to get an animal prepped and ready to go. We have some programs that do bring in some income, but a lot of them are break. Even if we didn’t have community support in public support, we couldn’t couldn’t keep our doors open. So how much your time is spent on Hilary’s versus running operations. I have some great people working for me. I have well seasoned department heads to department heads that are relatively new but very well educated that I’m work. I spend more time with them than with the season ones. So maybe 20 to 25% of my time is spent on organizational supervision. They really do. The majority of that. I like toe pay attention to what’s going on. But between I would say, 25% on organizational developed their organizational supervision, 25% on administrative things, making sure the bills are paid doing cost analysis, those types of things and then 50% of it is making connections and continuing to look for funding sources. So 50% would be fund raising. Do you drink when I’m successful? Most of the time we are so fortunate. In Waukesha County, we have a very educated demographic. We are one of the most financially sound counties in the state. I think Dane County is probably ahead of us and eggs Aki and US bumped back and forth, but it makes our challenge is much easier than someone who is, say, in Violence County or in um, Racine County. It makes our job easier because we do have people of means. And because we do have a lot of people that believe in animals, there’s a rural contention. Don’t hear that grew up with animals that are still living in the area. We also have people who are, as I said, well educated, that are suburban that have moved in from different places. That’s why we’re working so hard on the no kill community here. We don’t want just a no kill building. We want the entire community on board. So what does what does that mean? What is a no kill community mean? Well, you could have a no kill shelter just by closing your front doors and saying, OK, we’re full today, so you have to go somewhere else, unfortunately, and walking. Or maybe fortunately for the animals, we don’t hey, have a municipal pound. So if there are animals that are in need, they come through here, were considered open admission, we will take them and help them. Some of the interesting things that we’ve done in the last maybe five years to 10 years is really reach out to other partners, whether they be rescue groups or other shelters or even individuals that when we have the building full, we start making phone calls before we get full. So they have. It’s, you know, Hey, could you guys take a couple dogs? How are you guys doing for cats? So it’s communitywide that everyone in the community that either works with animals or even people who live in their own homes were hoping people will open up their homes to barn cats, you know? So we really dropped the euthanasia numbers, and they’re continuing to drop. So we’re looking for our entire community to embrace those philosophies and help, not just saying Kate, today you can’t bring your animal here cause we’re full. So true. Too bad, so sad. Ticket home. That sounds great, but there are people in need who have crisis, and they also have situations where the animals shouldn’t stay with the people it’s with. So we’re dedicated both to that open admission philosophy. Again, we don’t have a pound here and getting our community on board to have all those no kill philosophies where every animal that is treatable, whether it be physical or behavior treatments, can find a home we don’t adopt out dogs that we consider dangerous doesn’t always mean that if the trial bit Grandma, we’re going to automatically put that to our down because of his of my record. Those old tapes. We try to work with the animals through as much of that as we can, but if we do have one that we feel is unsafe, we have to make a really tough call. Probably the hardest part about the job. The other aspect with kittens and cats is our free outdoor Spain would’ve program, which is really lowered the incoming number of stray cats by 47%. They believe in 10 years, and that’s huge. We’ve gotta drop in another about 20% in order to, I think, match the homes available with E cats available without feeling a lot of additional pressure or having to move them on other organizations. We feel hopeful and we’re well on the way. I would say within five years we should be we should hit that what they consider a 90% live release rate for everything. We’re already there with dogs and small animals, so so it sounds like things have changed a lot in 14 years. Things have changed overall in 14 years. I would think that one of the biggest thing that’s changed is how people value animals now. Before you had a dog, it probably spent a lot of time outside that on a leash or on the chain free roaming. Now I think probably 50% of the dogs in the world sleep on their owners bets or in their bedroom. It’s just a very different value that people put on, whether it be dogs or cats. So that’s very helpful, because people’s attitudes have changed. We’re allowed to start embracing these philosophies and really moving things forward. There have been some organizations in cities that have been able to go completely, you know, to be no kill communities. I really think in Wisconsin, Waukesha County should be able to do that in relatively short order. So where do you see him? And you’ve talked a lot about obviously people’s perceptions and their relationships of the animals have changed. Where do you see animal welfare enamel rescue going? How do you see these trends affecting? Well, one of the really good things that’s come out of it is that Foster homes are more normal than what they were in the past. People are willing to take on those animals short term so they don’t have to stay in a shelter. It helps keep you from getting backed up so that you know, you reach a point when you’re at capacity that unless you can get those animals somewhere, temporarily foster care something on that order, you really can’t care for them. There’s a capacity to most buildings, most organizations. So without working with rescues or public Foster’s, we wouldn’t be able to do that. I see shelters as we move forward. Being more educational resource is being kind of a hub for people who love animals and trying to embrace the public’s philosophies, even though everybody is different now, everybody has their own individual thought that they want to put news and trying to be a center for all these organizations rather than be a stand alone. This is how we do things and we are here. You guys air over there more. I think you’re going to see the shelters, the larger shelters and communities, anyway, opening their doors to new ideas, opening their doors to helping the rescue groups and the individuals be successful with the animals that they have. It’s interesting what because of me. And I know in the past shelters and rescues haven’t always gotten along well. It’s kind of interesting because we’ll get an animal and say, I get a pure bred collie comes in Batted, comes in Ugly, comes in needing a dental, maybe needs an eye exam because Callie’s they’re notorious for problems with their eyes comes in on Captain Clean will get it up to date on vaccines. We will stay enumerate. Chances are we’ll get the eye exam and get it to a groomer. You know, we don’t just shave animals down anymore. You know, we try to do what’s best for the animal, and then we’ll call a rescue group if we don’t think we can adapt it out. If we can adopt it out, you know, to the right home, that’s great. But sometimes you’ll get these dogs in there so shy or, you know, maybe they’re just shutting down and uncomfortable here, and we’ll call a rescue group and say, Hey, you know, would you like this valley? One of the things that was always said is we rescued this. This Kali from a shelter. Wait a minute. The shelter rescue This Kali from some idiot in the world did an awful lot. Put An awful lot of resource is into it. We’re not the enemy that you rescued it from. It goes back on the person who didn’t care for it in the first place. So that statement used to make people’s hair stand up. Um, Annie did cause some barriers. Now that’s in shelters I worked in. There are shelters out there that are just like rescues. There’s good rescues. There are rescues that are not doing the animals any favors. They’re great shelters. There are some shelters that just aren’t doing the animals any favors. You can want to be humane and get blinders on, and it’s easy to do when you can’t say no. And it’s really easy to out. Extend. Your resource is when you think you’re the only one who can do it so by everybody working together. I think we have a much better chance of saving more animals. So shelters and rescues air getting along much better in our Spain neuter clinic. 1/3 about of what we do there is help rescues with affordable care for anything that we can do. We do there, see the eyes we do. They’re Spain neuters. We don’t have all the bells and whistles like an X ray machine and some of those things. But we will do whatever diagnostics we can do and try to do it for them, for a minimal cost so that they can put other resource is into they’re animals can’t do everything, but we do a lot and 1/3 of what we do. Pretty much is for the rescue groups. Then we do low income, we do our animals, and then we have the outdoor kept can’t program, which is free space for walker show cats that live outside pre space and neuters. It sounds like it’s an executive director. You got a lot of balls in the air. You gotta maintain relationships of rescue creeps. You gotta run your operations. You gotta do fundraisers. I think you have a board that you’ve got a man. How do you do all of that? I mean, what what skills do you need to be able to do all that? Well, I would say I’m in a very fortunate time in my life to have this job. I my family, I’m a little older. Not that I don’t know some dynamic young shelter directors, but for me, I can stay here till nine o’clock at night. I can meet somebody for coffee the next day at seven o’clock in the morning. I have a completely flexible schedule. It’s Saturday and I’m here. You know, I’m not limited to Monday through Friday and running kids back and forth to soccer games and such and always having that pressure of being in the wrong place at the wrong time that a lot of people deal with. Whether you know, male or female, it’s hard when you’ve got two priorities on the same day. In my case, right now, I’m very fortunate I have the time to put in, and this type of a job takes a lot of time. The other thing that I’m fortunate in is I’m blessed with very good people, some people that I’ve hired some people that have been here 20 years that are just outstanding, and it’s hard to hold on to those people because there is a burnout factor and in shelter work but we really tried to focus them on the positive things. You know, like the kitchen shower. Today we’ll adopt out about 30 kittens today. It’s very exciting, but why happy stuff going on? So it’s fun thing. It’s an energy boost for everybody, including the staff. So that’s one thing having the time to dedicate to a cause. To be a nonprofit manager, You’re not going to make what you make in the for profit world. In most cases, you are going to work as hard, if not harder. And there’s no security where you can just raised the price on something to make that extra 5% because you’re running tight on your electric cross this month, so you have to be able to balance those things. So from a wife’s lifestyle standpoint, I’m in a good spot in my life to be able to dedicate time to this. I have great people, and I can’t say enough about my board of directors. My board of directors are all volunteers. They make it very easy for me to ask questions and get help when needed. For instance, we have an attorney on the board when we had a content that contested a state. I was able to just pick up the phone work with my attorney. He made a few phone calls. We came up with a strategy we were able to move forward. I’m not an attorney. I know what questions to ask, but I don’t know what the appropriate course of action is. We have accountants on the board. We have endowments, specialists to work on our financial investments, to be able to keep the facility secure financially into the future. So when you look at your board of directors, you have to find people with a passion with a business sense and somebody you can develop a good report with, um, whether you like him a respect him, you’ve gotta have one or the other to be able to work with. Um, I feel bad for shelter directors that have Warner directors that they’re always butting heads with. So I’m fortunate to have a great board. We have volunteers here that do a lot of the heavy lifting. They hope with a lot of the animal socialization. Volunteers like that are vital to an organization to so what advice would draft for somebody that’s interested in getting into shelter management and becoming A. If you’re interested in becoming a director, pull everything from every job that you have and volunteer. You may not be able to just walk in and say, OK, here I am. I want to be, Ah, shelter director. You have this job. I’ve run a business. I know I can do this. Maybe, but do you understand the level of passion that your employees, your volunteers, the public pressure, things that you have to balance? You need to get involved on some level to really understand what sheltering in an organization like this is all about. You need that business experience. You can’t just love animals, but you have to love animals and have that business experience. It’s really important. But with that said, if you don’t like people, you’re not going to succeed, so you almost have. They have that trifecta. That’s not everybody that’s out there. I have people on my staff that certainly could do my job. They want nothing to do with it. They think it’s too much pressure, so you have to be somebody who’s willing to take a risk. Stand up for what you believe in but build a lot of bridges. You’re more pushing a pendulum to get things to change, then just walking in and saying This is what I believe, Chris, you need to think just like I do cause people don’t think the same. You need to be able to find common ground and start working on a common project. And as a leader in charge, you really I really had to learn how to listen to people and open up to know that I could learn something. If I would embrace some of the differences out there, I could do a better job than just going the way I’ve always done it. And this is what I’m gonna do it now. So being open minded is also helpful. No, it’s all great advice. So is there anything else you wanted to share before we wrap things up? There are a lot of professional people that need to live on a six figure income. The chances of you having a six figure income in shelter work is probably not there, especially toe backpedal, and go from six figures down to 50 to get the learning and the education that you really need to do a good job. There are boards of directors. There are committees. Look for an organization that your vision for animal welfare can kind of mess with, get involved and help give of your time and give of your talents. There are a lot of places that are struggling with financials because they don’t have somebody who is looking at the numbers. There are places that are struggling with human resource and employee development things so that they’re turning people over on a regular basis, help them help them develop training programs, help them work with the people. Or maybe find a better source for finding stronger people or looking at their pay scales and helping them develop one. The income coming in so that they can pay people. So they were not wasting money on training all the time and that they can work on keeping these people long term and having a very low turnover rates that got experience people. There’s a lot of things that are being done in companies that you need in your shelter, but you can’t afford to have an HR department, a legal department, a finance department and investment. You know people watching your investments and then maybe veterinary, you know? So there’s a lot of different things out there from a volunteer standpoint that people can help with, and they can keep their six figure income and give some of that was to shamelessly asking for money consistently part of the job. Well, thank you, and I appreciate you coming on the program, and I appreciate your time. No problem. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast if you’re not already a member, joined the Air P A. To take advantage of all the resources we have to offer. And don’t forget to sign up with do bert dot com. It’s free and helps automate the most difficult tasks in animal rescue.”

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