Electric Guard Dog (EGD) was started in 1973 by founder Bill Mullis as a completely different type of business — an RMR-based guard dog service. Mullis found that the dogs were so hard to find (they had to be exactly the right temperament) that he couldn’t afford to sell them to customers. Instead he “rented” them, providing shots and food and everything the dog would need in exchange for a monthly fee. That was the business for close to 20 years, until one break-in changed everything.

“We had signs plastered everywhere and that kept everybody out, until one fateful weekend the gate was cut and some Rottweiler puppies were gone,” Mullis recalls. “Being in the trade, it hurt my feelings and made me real mad.” That first time he relied on a reward and the police to catch the perpetrator. But when it happened again just a few months later, he decided to take matters into his own hands.

He had observed the electric fences used on farms, and thought he could come up with something similar for his own property, to keep intruders out. It worked so well that soon others were asking the company to provide the fence, instead of the dogs. A new company, Electric Guard Dog, was born in 1991. Because his model with the dogs worked, Mullis kept the same approach to the fence, resulting in a unique model that doesn’t charge the customer anything up front (other than permit fees where required) and includes all service for one monthly price.

Mullis’ idea was so successful that the company grew solely by word of mouth for years until it got so unwieldy (particularly on the service side) that he decided to find outside investors in 2007. By that point two of his children also worked for him, and they continued on as part of the company, which was now led by CEO Jack DeMao. DeMao and his team were committed to keeping the model going and improving where necessary. But there was one fundamental thing that they did not want to change: the company culture.

EGD prides itself on its family atmosphere. Employees and customers make up what DeMao refers to as the virtuous circle. “If we have happy customers it is easier to have happy employees,” he says. “If we have happy employees it is easier to have happy customers. Once it gets going it just keeps going around.”

EGD employees are happy. They give the company a 4.7-star rating overall on Glassdoor for its employee benefits package and a 95 percent approval rating for DeMao’s performance as CEO, a factor that helps the company attract top talent. Another thing that helps is the company’s record for fast growth, both as a company and for individual employees. Most of EGD’s management team have been with the company less than nine years and several are on their second, third or more promotions within the company.

With an acquisition this past summer by private equity firm Snow Phipps — a move that was sought by EGD to provide the capital to take it to the next level — new departments have been created and many more promotions are likely to come.

Customers, too, are extremely satisfied with EGD. The electric fence has a 97 percent record of preventing crime. Not surprisingly, EGD enjoys extremely low attrition and has many customers that have been with them for 25 years or more and are truly considered “part of the family.”

Now under its third ownership, Electric Guard Dog is poised to grow even more, all because of a brainstorm idea years ago that took off. The live dogs may be gone today, but they are never forgotten. The family history and legacy live on.

This month’s cover story, profiling Electric Guard Dog as this year’s Dealer of the Year, begins on page 54.  Let us know what you think by writing to me at Hodgsonk@bnpmedia.com.