Office Doors: A Day With Matt Byrnes

Matt Byrnes is the senior Vice President of proprietary brands and sourcing at PetSmart

4:30 A.M.  >>  ME TIME

I’m an early riser, and my mornings are my selfish time. I use this time to take care of myself and make sure I’m ready for the day. I start with a cup of coffee while catching up on the news, followed by some sort of physical activity. When my 15-month-old son, Otto, wakes up, I give him a bottle and help him walk around the house before Mom takes over and I head into the office.


I’ve always liked retail because it’s like putting a puzzle together. You make sure all the pieces fit, both within your team and cross-functionally. There is not a lot anybody can do individually without the support and alignment of others to accomplish their goal. If you want to do something with a product, you have to make sure your suppliers, merchandising partners and stores are on board. We call it a team sport.

Our team is responsible for developing products within 24 brands, finding a place in the store and sourcing suppliers. Proprietary brands offer a unique assortment and give pet parents a reason to come to PetSmart, versus one of our competitors. It’s a huge lever of loyalty to our business. We work with merchandising, marketing and our digital team to understand the product we need to bring to life so they can tell the stories that differentiate PetSmart in the marketplace.


By mid-January, we know what will be in the store for the year and are already working on 2025. It takes this long to work with suppliers, pick and design products, make things ourselves, negotiate costs, design packaging and ship it to our more than 1,600 stores. Each team has a timeline, which is why cross-functional alignment and buy-in are so important. While we have an idea of what we want to do
for the next year, we have to be flexible in setting priorities so we can react to something we may have missed in the initial assessment.


My job also includes casting a vision of where business needs to go over a three- to five-year period. I work with my team to understand the progress they’re making against that vision. What are the resources they need? How am I helping develop talent so we are able to deliver against that vision?


I started at PetSmart 16 years ago, and most of us who worked at the company came from somewhere other than Phoenix. Our mantra was “bloom where you are planted.” Our CEO at the time taught us that because we’re fortunate enough to work in this community for the greatest retail industry there is (pet), we have a responsibility to give back to the community. PetSmart introduced me to Valley of the Sun United Way all those years ago, and I now serve on its executive committee, board of directors and co-chair the diversity, equity and inclusion committee.

Through a United Way affiliation, I also served on the board of Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development. I would never have met and connected with so many different ways of thinking if I hadn’t been active in the community. I often tell people how much I’ve learned from working on boards with people from different walks of life than I normally see in corporate America. I’ve realized I need to listen first and talk second. This friendly reminder helps me everywhere.


Valley of the Sun United Way is an opportunity for people who care about the community and want to make Phoenix a better place. I love the accountability United Way has to donors and the community. It gives people confidence that if you give, they will be tremendous stewards of that investment by showing up with the same level of accountability for delivering results that I’m held to at PetSmart.

I’ve taken an active role at PetSmart and become a more civic-minded leader because of my United Way board service. I am the executive sponsor for our internal “Be the Difference” campaign that raises money for Valley of the Sun United Way, PetSmart Charities and The PetSmart Associate Assistance Foundation. PetSmart and the United Way have a shared interest in making sure Phoenix continues to be a great place to live. It’s important to understand where we can make investments together.


I was fortunate to grow up in a family where I always had what I needed but didn’t get everything I wanted. Charity was a part of my experience attending Catholic school in Cincinnati for 12 years. I volunteered and completed hours of community service from a young age, and this is when I started to realize how good I had it. I didn’t do anything to deserve this other than being born into a certain family. Because of my job, I’ve lived and traveled to parts of the world — Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and India — where I saw firsthand how people are happy with so little. I’ve acquired an appreciation for how lucky I am and how life has created a responsibility since I got more than I need.

5:30 P.M.  >>  A BOY’S BEST FRIEND

When I get home, I spend time with my family before recharging for the next day. I unwind and switch gears on my drive home before I see what Otto wants for dinner. Right now, it’s a steady diet of macaroni and cheese and steamed broccoli. I am also a pet parent to a 13-year-old Australian shepherd named Tegan. She doesn’t spend as much time at the office with me as she used to because she likes to stay home with Otto. Tegan has learned that Otto is the only person who feeds her more than my wife, Katie!

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About Julie Coleman

Julie Coleman is a contributing writer for Frontdoors Media. She is Principal of Julie Coleman Consulting, providing strategic philanthropy consulting services for individuals, families, businesses, foundations and nonprofit organizations.

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