Your Stories: Randy Boyd

2:40 PM, May 24, 2011   |    comments
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Randy Boyd is such a modest guy, you hardly know he is the CEO of PetSafe, a company worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

No corner office, Randy has a corner cubicle. He certainly doesn't walk around like he owns the place, even though he does!

"I'm surrounded by brilliant people. We share the same values, the same passion for pets," says Boyd.

Randy has an entrepreneurial spirit that was ingrained in him as a young boy. "I had this ambition to be Secretary of State of the United States of America," says Boyd. "I proceed to tell my dad about wanting to be the Secretary of State and my dad, in one of those looks only sons know of their fathers, without hesitation, had this immediate look of disappointment on his face. He says, 'I can't believe my son would want to work for somebody else'."

This is the way it was in the Boyd household. His dad owned his own company that made electric fencing for cattle and horses.

"He gave me my first job when I was 8 years old. I worked for him for a dollar an hour on his assembly line which was a great experience. A dollar an hour when you're 8 years old is pretty good money," says Boyd.

That job took him all the way through high school at Doyle. He even worked for his dad through college at the University of Tennessee. He paid his own tuition. When he graduated he started working for his dad full time.

"After about four years working for my dad, I realized, like most young people, that my dad really wasn't very smart. So, I decided I would start my own business. About six months later, I realized he's a lot smarter than I gave him credit for," says Boyd.

Randy started a company making tornado alert systems, but it was a bust.

"Here's a lesson I learned, it's really hard to create demand when there's not demand for something already. I've tried not to make that mistake since then," says Boyd.

Then Boyd was on to the next company distributing farm supplies.

"It was a really glamorous job. I had this Dodge maxi-van with no AC, no radio. I'd take off about 5:00 every Monday morning, head down to these farm stores," says Boyd.

Then came a bigger idea. "I started having some of my stores ask me for this product called the Invisible Fence. They said the kind of thing that every salesman likes to hear, 'It doesn't matter how much it costs I'll buy as many as you can get'."

At first he tried to pitch straight to the Invisible Fence company to no avail. "I took it to a friend that had a components business and he added up all the parts and came back to me and said in that $450 device, there was $13 worth of parts," says Boyd. "So that was my one big insight, all the great credit I give to the education at Doyle and UT and everything else, all I really needed to know is that between $13 and $450, a person could really offer something of value and make some margins."

He found the secret and invested all he had, $26,000, in to developing Radio Fence.

"We bet everything on this one product. A year and a half later we had our first Radio Fence and started selling it to stores. Our goal was to sell 100 units a month. The first month we sold 3,000 units. The first six months, about a million dollars worth of products so that's kind of how we got started," says Boyd.

And this big idea became a huge company now called PetSafe. It has more than 600 employees, half are here in Knoxville, 4,000 products like pet fountains and heated pet beds. They eventually bought out Invisible Fence. PetSafe is now a $340-million dollar business this year and growing.

"The pet industry in the U.S. alone is about $45 billion, which is larger than the movie industry, the video game industry and the DVD rental business combined," says Boyd.

But you ask Randy Boyd what drives him and he says he wants this on his tombstone. "He was a good father and a good husband. So, I guess most importantly that's the thing that drives me everyday."

His wife, Jenny, and sons, Thomas and Harrison, keep him going. And so does his charity work. He is really involved in youth education and animal welfare. Things like Tennessee Achieves and PetSafe dog parks.

"Sometimes you worry that you're not going to make a big enough difference, but if you could just make a small difference to some people, it's probably all worth while," says Boyd.

Randy Boyd, a motivated man, no doubt, but one with a big heart and a giving spirit.

One of "Your Stories." There's no place like this one.

Boyd also recently bought the Manhattans building in the Old City for his wife, Jenny. She is going to turn it into a place that embraces music from different cultures

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