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“Our unwavering dedication to pet health and creating an exceptional customer experience is what drives every decision we make – from building our world-class team, to seeking the right partners and beyond.”

Headquartered in Philadelphia, PA, Petplan is America’s No. 1-rated pet health insurance provider, and the sister company of Petplan UK, the world’s oldest and largest pet health insurer. Driven by their own personal experience of going into debt to care for their cat, Bodey, Petplan Co-Founders Chris and Natasha Ashton have built an organization with an unwavering dedication to pet health and exceptional customer care.

Petplan was the first pet insurance company in the United States to offer full coverage for congenital and hereditary conditions as standard, and it is the only pet insurance provider to offer a Covered for LifeTM guarantee.

Chris & Natasha Ashton, Petplan - Co-Founders & Co-CEO's

MO: How you manage your work and life balance when you’re together at the office and at home? Do you have any advice for other couples who run a business together?

Chris & Natasha: Our work and our life are one and the same, so we have learned to balance them. For instance, we’ve learned to identify when five minutes off will make us five times more productive.

The hardest part for us is time off. This is more than just a business for us. This is our life. It really is. We eat, sleep, breathe it. It is everything. People think we are crazy: “You two must be nuts, you went to business school together and now you are running a business together!”

Our 4-and-a-half-year-old son, Benjamin, is also a huge part of our lives, and he’s already in good shape to take over the family business one day! Our dog Wellington and cat Bodey are his best friends – even his first word was “dog,” closely followed by “Petplan!”

MO: What influenced you to tackle the US pet insurance market even though you had not lived in America and had no previous experience in the industry?

Chris & Natasha: When we were in graduate school at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, our cat, Bodey, became ill and the end result was a veterinary bill for $5,000. As students, we were saddled with debt, and the only way we could afford to pay for Bodey’s veterinary care was by downsizing apartments.

When we started to look for pet health insurance after our experience with Bodey, it fast became apparent that the industry was poorly developed and under-served in the U.S., which was surprising when compared to the booming pet industry as a whole. Coming from the U.K., where pet insurance is extremely well-developed, we realized that there was a huge opportunity to create a compelling, consumer-focused business within a niche marketplace that was lacking in the U.S. marketplace.

Of course, it helps that we are avid pet lovers. Following a passion makes it so much easier to overcome the inevitable obstacles that come with starting a business.

MO: Can you tell our readers a little about the unique work culture and philosophy that you’ve implemented at Petplan?

Chris & Natasha: At Petplan, all our employees are encouraged to bring their pets to the office every day. Having all these happy pets here not only adds fun to the work day, but gives us a greater sense of empathy when speaking with policyholders about their pets.

But creating the kind of workplace where everyone thrives takes more than just pets running around. From personalized “treat jars” of sweets for each employee to company-wide cupcake celebrations for professional accomplishments, we use every opportunity to set a new standard for employee appreciation. It’s just smart business. After all, how can we expect our team to care about our policyholders and their pets’ health, if we don’t extend that same care to them and their pets? This philosophy transcends throughout our entire company and is one of the major factors why we are the top rated pet insurance company each year.

MO: In what ways are you innovating and refining your processes to keep up with an ever changing market?

Chris & Natasha: We are always looking for ways to add value to our policyholders. Our website, www.GoPetplan.com, features not just a streamlined claims process, a side-by-side pet insurance comparison tool and a real-time claim calculator, but it provides vet-authored pet health content, a condition checker of breed-specific ailments and an “Ask an Expert” feature, where people can send their pet health inquiries to our team of vets.

We are a pet health company, not just a pet insurance company. This truly sets us apart from the competition. We have a “pets come first” philosophy, so we offer a suite of tools – including vet-authored health tips and feature content offered on both our website and in fetch! Magazine, our glossy quarterly pet health publication – that provides pet parents with essential, easily understood advice for the care and wellbeing of their pets.

We’re also very active on social media sites like Twitter (@Petplan) and Facebook (www.Facebook.com/Petplan), where we love checking in with our Petplan family. It’s a wonderful place for pet parents (and that includes us!) to share stories and pets’ photos, and to learn helpful pet health tips, from how to spot an ear infection to the latest product recalls. We also get great ideas for future issues of fetch! Magazine there!

MO: How does it feel to be recognized as one of America’s 500 fastest growing companies in 2011? How are you going to keep the momentum going?

Chris & Natasha: We were delighted to have made our debut on the Inc. 500 list this year. They say success demands passion, and there is no company more passionate about ensuring that pets get the very best care than Petplan. Our dedication to pet health and creating an exceptional customer experience is what drives every decision we make – from building our world-class team, to seeking the right partners and beyond.

In terms of keeping the momentum going, we’ll continue to inject the staff with enthusiasm, select the best partners and innovate, innovate, innovate. There is still tremendous opportunity for growth in the U.S., as just 1% of the nation’s 93 million cats, and only 3% of the nation’s 78 million dogs, are currently insured. We strongly believe the American market is moving in the direction of many European nations, where 25% to 50% of pets have health insurance. Petplan is primed to continue to grow exponentially, and with enthusiasm and innovation, we’ll be able to keep improving the lives and health of pets everywhere.

MO: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for Petplan?

Chris & Natasha: We’re very excited to be launching in Canada in 2012, as well as working with human health insurers who are selling Petplan pet insurance as a voluntary benefit to their groups. Additionally, we are expanding out partnerships with shelters, rescues and humane societies, which will help us ensure that second-chance pets truly get the health care they deserve. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg …!

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