When Jeff Barnhart founded Creative Marketing Alliance in 1987 he often brought his dogs to work with him. Gradually his employees began to ask if they could bring their dogs too. The habit caught on. “We’re a people business. You try to hire like-minded people who have been successful before. Not knowingly, a lot of people we hire are pet-friendly and dog-friendly,” Says Barnhart. “When someone has their dog in, it lends for a very positive environment. It’s not unusual to be in here and see three or four different dogs. It seems to put people in a very positive frame of mind.”
Barnhart has three dogs. “My black lab, Lexie, will just curl up under my desk but my bichon frise, Sophie, will wander the entire agency. My schnoodle (a schnauzer poodle mix), Bode — after the skier — will go out and sit on my associate’s chair and stay there. Some people bring in little dog gates to fence in an area. It’s a diversion from work, and creates excitement and an upbeat environment in the agency.”
Barnhart grew up in Titusville and graduated from Rider in 1977 with a bachelor’s in journalism. His father was a thermo electronics engineer for Melcor in Trenton before becoming a part-time cop and one of the founding members of the Hopewell Township Police Department. His mom was a teacher in the Hamilton Township school system. He lives in Robbinsville with his wife, Susan, a spin instructor at RWJ Hamilton Fitness Center and Tyco. “She’s a health nut so walking the dogs is her way to get me to exercise,” says Barnhart.
They often pile the dogs into his Hummer H2 and drive them to the Robbinsville Township community soccer fields, where there’s a walking park and a half mile track. On weekends they regularly take the dogs down to Long Beach Island where they have a home on the lagoon and a 29-foot walkaround fisherman. “The dogs can walk right out on the dock and jump in the boat. I pull up to a sandbar, and they jump out and play and swim like kids in the water.”
Barnhart, who does not have children, regularly puts in 60 hours a week, sometimes more. He’s been away on business four of the last six weekends. “When you’re away a lot and working a lot, you come home and open the door and those dogs see you and run at you like they can’t wait to see you and play. You can have the worst day in the world but when you walk in and you see that dog wagging its tail it’s the happiest thing in the world — they live so much in the moment. As a business owner you get so wrapped up in how important things are; then you see your dog wagging its tail, and it puts things in perspective: Life is more a journey than a destination. The better you enjoy it the happier you’ll be.”
Kaitlin Friedmann, the PR manager at CMA, is equally as enthusiastic about her dog, Cougar, a pug and beagle mix, who will be two years old in July. . “My husband had leg surgery last year and was on crutches for a long time,” says Friedmann. The couple does not have children and Friedmann says the dog “is our baby. After my husband’s surgery., Cougar was good. He would just come and lay next to my husband, like he was protecting him. It forced my husband to want to get up and get mobile quicker.”
Friedmann grew up in Milford, CT. Both her parents are graphic designers with their own busiess. Her father also works as an architectural lighting designer. She graduated from Rutgers in 2004 (where she met her husband, Brian, who works for the state of New Jersey in the division of taxation) with a bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology. They married in 2007 and got Cougar in 2008. Friedmann says she had golden retrievers growing up but her husband was not a dog person when she met him. Now, however, she’s nicknamed him Cesar Milan after the star of the show “The Dog Whisperer,” which Brian tapes in an attempt to train Cougar properly.
She says she has started traveling a lot more recently and is also planning a wedding with 150 guests for her sister this Fourth of July at her parents’ house with a ceremony on the beach, which she calls her second job. “Cougar instinctively feels my stress level and sits at my feet when I’m calling around to wedding places. When I come home from travelling for work I take him to the dog park, or my husband and I take him for a picnic in the park. Seeing your dog running around with other dogs is calming and a nice way to readjust to being home.”
She is grateful to have a dog lover for a boss. “In the office I think everybody agrees (having the dogs in) helps us step away from the computer screen. You have to walk your dog, and it lets me tear myself away from the constant E-mails and get a breath of fresh air, and you become a little more sane for that reason.”
Creative Marketing Alliance Inc. (CMA), 191 Clarksville Road, Box 727, Princeton Junction 08550; 609-799-6000; fax, 609-799-7032. Jeffrey E. Barnhart, president and CEO. Home page: www.cmasolutions.com.