Possession Aggression: Coping with Competition Stealing your Work

sneer

I began thinking about this topic last night while watching an episode of Better Call Saul, where he was intentionally copying a competitor. It was a humorous show, but it brought up my past feelings of having this happen to me. For any entrepreneur, having your work and/or ideas stolen is going to happen at some point in your career. In my experience, the more successful you become, the more you are copied. I feel like this is harder for women and seems to happen more. I am not sure if it actually does happen more to women or perhaps just that we discuss it more and  that I have more female business owners as acquaintances versus males. However, it is frustrating and can make us want to act out. I am here to tell you not to. As difficult as it may be, imitation truly is the most sincere form of flattery. It may not feel that way, but in this post I am going to talk about how to handle it and why it is happening.

How it feels
It feels like what I imagine possession aggression would feel like for a dog; a flood of anger and wanting to reclaim the item as your own. One of my first experiences with this was when I was browsing competitors’ websites online and found our identical rates content on a local competitor’s page. This information belonged to me. I first felt angry and betrayed by this person, but was honestly more shocked at how blatantly obvious it was that this person had just copied directly from me. And in some other situations, I have even felt threatened. I thought about what type of person actually does this? And as I was to learn; many people do and it will continue to surprise you who will. I have gained better coping skills, but have consistently felt disappointment and frustration each time this happens. And many times, I have felt incredibly hurt.

What to do
Nothing. I know, this does not feel like the right answer, does it? What if I told you to feel proud of yourself instead? When someone else has copied you, whether it be your content, a service offering or any part of your business, it indicates that you are a leader in your field and that others are aspiring to build their business up like your organization. You are doing something right and others are recognizing this and wanting to emulate what you have created. And that is something to be very proud of.

However, there may be more serious situations that involve a response, including legal representation. I have known people who have had full articles duplicated, images stolen and exact programs replicated. We had a past student use our tag line for their business, and although we did not have it trademarked, we did contact them asking them to remove it. Which they did and apologized for using it. However, not everyone will respond this way, but this person must not have expected us to see this and they were (and should have been!) quite embarrassed by it.

In our most serious case, I did get our lawyer involved. We had a local not-for-profit group successfully complete our dog trainer apprenticeship program, only to launch an identical program within months of graduating ours. We were the only ones in Canada to offer a program like this and they copied the entire outline and content of our program. This one really hurt. I had spent years helping this organization and sharing the information and I was angry. We do have a copyright on the program, but my lawyer advised me that these laws do not do well at protecting us and it would be a potentially costly and long battle ahead. I contemplated enrolling someone in the program to gain access to the materials and was faced with a rush of different ideas on how to handle it. In the end, I tried to reason with the organization and come to a compromise, with no success. I had never spent the amount of time I poured into this program on anything else, and was left feeling resentful and almost ended the program.

Looking back I may have fought more, but I was in the process of opening our second location. I just did not have the energy, time or funds to pursue it. My lessons learned were how to further protect myself and learning more about copyrights and intellectual property. Although, I am disappointed at how little protection there is out there, you can find some great resources and ways to protect yourself in Canada here.

My lessons learned
I learned some valuable lessons outside of just how to protect myself and a lot of good has come from these negative situations. I know it is not an easy process, but I hope that if you are faced with this in your future, that you can remember these three lessons to help get you through or avoid the feelings of anger, frustration and hurt.

1. Put on your blinders
Stop paying attention to what others are doing. Put your blinders on and focus on your own work. Pursue all of your crazy, wonderful ideas and utilize your increased focus to put a plan in place and get them started. Stay off competitor’s websites and social media and pay attention to what you are doing. Keep focused on yourself and enjoy the positive energy and output you will receive by doing this.

2. Support each other
Too often we keep to ourselves and try to hoard all of our ideas and thoughts. Get out and join associations or networking events to meet other like-minded business owners. Celebrate the successes of your competition and find ways to support each other. Their success does not mean you will not find success yourself. The more positive feedback you put out into the world, the more you will receive. Open yourself up to this and immediately start receiving the benefits. Women need to do a better job at supporting each other and being proud of each other for our individual successes. What a powerful group we are and what amazing things we can accomplish when we work together.

3. Believe in yourself and karma
You can do amazing things, and if others are copying you, it means you are already doing so. You are the one with the passion, the drive, the positive energy and everything else that is creating your business. If someone else is copying something, they are missing all of that, so will never gain the success you have. They are missing the most important part: you. Know that karma is a powerful tool and as long as you focus on the right things and strive to make a change in the world, that the universe is going to help you accomplish that. Those who steal and copy are creating negativity for themselves, and in turn, that’s what they will receive. Forget about them and just know that karma will handle them for you :).

What have you experienced in your business in regards to possession aggression? What helps get you through this? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Will Work For Food? Understanding What Motivates Your Team

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When training dogs, you must have a good understanding of what motivates the one you are working with. Some dogs love a good ear scratch, while others may be fearful of touch. Some may follow a small piece of liver for miles, while others snub it to go play with their canine buddies instead. We cannot dictate to a dog what will motivate them, so as a dog trainer, you quickly learn to discover what the dog loves and use it accordingly to keep them motivated and engaged. This is no different than with an employee, however, the true benefit we have with people is that we can just ask them. Unfortunately, most leaders or managers never do ask and assuming you know what motivates your team is not a good practice. By not knowing what motivates each employee, you may experience a lower retention rate and low team morale. In this post, we will discuss what a motivational survey is and different ways you can motivate your team.

Motivational Survey
At dogma, I created a team motivational survey that we put out twice a year. It is an optional survey, but we encourage team members to take the short time to fill it out. We only require they do this once, but they are welcome to update it as they advance within the company. We tend to have a good response from these and  we aim to reward them accordingly shortly after they fill it out. For example, if they say they would like a gift certificate to a certain restaurant, we ensure that’s what they get next when they cash in on our Initiative Program. This demonstrates we listen to them and value the time they take to do these surveys, and that we actually do take action on them. By taking it seriously and responding in a timely fashion, you will also increase their compliance to do more of these in the future.

We ask the below questions in our survey, but you can easily update these to match your business:

  1. What aspects of your job do you find the most rewarding?
  2. How do you want to be rewarded? What do you want to receive for a reward?
  3. How do you work best?
  4. What can we do to make your job easier?
  5. What influences impact your work negatively?
  6. How would you like to be recognized for your accomplishments?
  7. What would be 3 ideal gift certificates for you to receive?
  8. What are some employee perks you would like to see implemented?
  9. What are some skills you are interested in developing or classes you would like to take?
  10. What would you like to be doing in 5 years?
  11. What are some hobbies or special activities that you participate in?

This provides me with essential information about my team. It allows me to get to know them a bit better, help guide their career development, reward them accordingly and make changes to their work environment or structure. I want my team to love their jobs and enjoy the people and environment that they work in, and this helps me to do so. Not all team members will disclose exactly what they would prefer for rewards/motivation, but by learning a bit more about them, you will have a better idea of what they look for in a job. At dogma, we want individuals who are looking for more than just a job, so this highlights those team members that match well with our core values. We record the results within our team documentation and typically categorize motivation into the below categories.

Money
This is the first item that always comes to everyone’s mind when discussing employee motivation. Most people rely on their income to pay their bills, buy food and cover necessities. You should always be fair with pay, and if you want higher quality employees, paying above average wages is ideal. Bonuses are a great way to acknowledge good performance and initiative. We are also about to roll out an incentive program to provide cash bonuses to reward special roles, exceptional performance or for items such as a recruitment bonus. A good leader recognizes the value of their employees and fair pay is a great start, however, more money typically never directly equates to better performance. There is often much more that motivates an employee and makes them want to continue working with your organization.

Acknowledgement
You may be surprised to know that this tends to be the item that motivates employees the most and tends to be one that the most employees feel is received the least. This can be as simple as a thank you. I would say thank you to every employee at the end of their shift and remember to do so throughout the day as they complete their tasks. It is such a small gesture that goes a long way, and it helped build some great relationships as well. It is good to know if a team member prefers private or public recognition. If they excel with public recognition, I would ensure I do this at something like a team meeting. We also use our team Facebook page to make announcements to recognize team for excellence. Recognition should be the top of your list as you can quickly make your team feel under-valued and under-appreciated if this is ignored.

Sociability
Some team members develop strong relationships with their co-workers and consider them their close friends. These team members love social events and enjoy anything that fosters team-building and allows them to spend more time with their team mates. Schedule regular activities you can do outside of work. You do not have to pick up the tab for all of them either. We do pub nights that anyone is welcome to and they are responsible for their own food and drink (we may occasionally pay for it all, or a round of drinks or order some appetizers for all to share). We schedule yearly events such as a team bowling night every March, a team potluck bbq every September and an annual Christmas team outing every December. We also have team events/outings set as options for them to cash their initiative program rewards towards and I am happily surprised at how many team members put their rewards towards this. I also reward these team members with lunches out and with different ways we can socialize outside of the work environment and get to know each other better.

Family
Many of your team may have families or significant others they want to spend more quality time with. These team members will be more motivated by working hours that allow them to better do this, and to have holiday time off. They would like a job that allows them to spend as much time as possible with their family or significant others. For these team members, paid time off to recognize outstanding performance is highly motivating. Also schedule team events where families are welcome or reward them with gift certificates that allow for a family outing or night out with their spouse.

Responsibility
Some team members thrive on gaining more responsibility within their jobs. They are motivated to do more and go out of their way to demonstrate their initiative to you. These are the go-getters and they love to work and learn. If left unchecked, things can get out of hand, but in my experience, they are the future leaders of your company. They are motivated by the work and want to see the business do well. Be sure to provide them with the opportunity to learn more and grow within your organization.

Social Cause
This is a main motivation for many of my team. They are passionate individuals who believe in what we are doing. They want to improve the care and handling of dogs and believe in animal rights issues. They love and want to be involved in our support for animal rescue, with many doing much on their own to help. Most people want to feel like they are doing something to make a difference. By not taking a part of social efforts, you are missing igniting a passion in your employees that benefits the cause, the business and your customers. Choose a cause that matters to you and be aware of what matters to your team.

Your Business Services or Products
Many of our team were introduced to our business because of our services. We provide a majority of them for free or at a very low cost to the team. It is uncommon to have team that do not take advantage of these, and if they don’t, many aren’t long term with us anyways. We also provide pet products at discounted rates and are bringing in dog food to them at cost to help with their monthly pet expenses. Do not ignore what your business may be providing and how it can be offered as a perk to your team. These can be great perks for your team and a minimal cost to you.

The Little Things
Don’t forget the little things. Like the pleases and the thank you’s. Asking them how things are. Remembering and acknowledging big events in their lives. Give them a small birthday gift. Take them out or give them a gift for their anniversaries with your company. And do big things for when they have been with you for milestones like 5 or 10 years. Surprise them with lunch. Bring them coffees. Extend services to their families. Help them when times are tough. Take the time to learn what motivates each employee as providing the same rewards to all may leave some feeling disgruntled or upset. Vary things, and least of all, have fun!

How are some ways you motivate your team? What challenges or successes have you had? Share in the comments below and be sure to follow my blog to receive updates!

 

 

 

Fight Like a Dog: Never Give Up

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You will never hear anyone tell you that being an entrepreneur is easy. And if they do, they are lying or they’ve been incredibly lucky in their journey. It can be immensely rewarding, but it is not easy. If you read about the common traits required to be successful as an entrepreneur you will consistently see characteristics such as passion, tenacity, discipline and self-motivated to name a few. Talk to any entrepreneur and they will each have stories of incredible struggles and low-points while they have built their business. Some of these stories are full of so many challenges, others will wonder why they’ve continued on this path. However, we tend to be an optimistic bunch and value our struggles as they have brought us to where we are today.

I’ve just recently came through one of my longest battles for my business to secure some much needed financing. This has been a fight since day one. In the beginning, I understood that I was a newer business and in a relatively new industry that many did not understand. I was also a service-based business, so the risk was too high. I took equity out of my home and put a large sum of money towards opening my first facility. We did all of the renovations and I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into getting it opened. It was a tough, but incredibly rewarding experience. We saw growth and immediate success, but with high rental and staff costs, it was challenging. I did not take any money for myself for the first 3 years of being open, but rather invested this back into the business. And I worked unbelievably long hours.

When I approached the bank again after seeing continual yearly growth of 150%+, I was turned down because I was not taking personal income. Feeling like I had made this decision as a good choice for my business, and that I was lucky to be able to do this, this was something I did not understand. I wanted to grow my business and had many ideas that I wanted to put into place, so being turned down again forced me to implement one of the most labour-intensive projects to date. I created our Dog Trainer Apprenticeship Program which was immediately successful and allowed me to further fund my business and expand to a second location.

When I began considering this expansion, I contacted a national business bank that offered funding programs for young entrepreneurs. Going through the process, I was told the funding was in place, so I put down a large deposit on the next location. We started work and I kept following up with the bank. About a month into renovations, my call was finally returned and I was advised that the banker I had been working with had been let go and I could receive the money with a $20,000 deposit. At this point, all of my money had already been invested into the new location and I had nothing left to give. This devastated me and I was unsure if we would be able to open. I was worried I was going to lose the entire business at this point. We had about $600 in drywall to purchase that day and everyone told me to wait. I knew if I gave in, that would be it, so made the decision to keep purchases going for necessities, cut back my budget and dropped out some of our plans. I also went into my personal finances and was able to provide some cash flow into the business. We opened for our target date and saw immediate growth, filling our location within a year.

Throughout all of this, I have struggled to manage the growth of the business, battled the CRA which resulted in back paying a year of payroll taxes, went through a divorce along with a variety of other challenges. Needless to say, it has been hard. However, this week, after another long battle with the bank, I received the good news. It was an overwhelming experience and the emotions from it all were unreal. Finally! The feeling like someone believes in what you are doing, takes you seriously and wants to see you succeed. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen tremendous success, have an amazing core team who believes in dogma’s vision, have a wonderful network of amazing friends, clients and business acquaintances, and met my soul mate. I also know there will be more struggles ahead. But for now, I’ve successfully conquered a big one and I am damn proud of it.

 If you have not already, please read The Alchemist. This book was from my sister for my 21st birthday and it was life-changing. I read it at least once a year as it is a quick read, and I always take  something different from it. It is a story about following your heart and your dreams, and how when you do so, the universe conspires to get you there. It is a story that teaches us that there will be challenges and struggles, but that all of these happen for a reason, and that as long as we are continuing on our path, we will get through them and things will be for the best.

The lessons from The Alchemist help me get through the hard times. This recent experience has floored me and got me thinking about how many times I had wanted to give up and what would have happened if I did. I wanted to share this story and keep it as a reminder for myself and for all of the other entrepreneurs who are feeling discouraged, alone and like they have no fight left. This is what sets you apart from the rest. You will not give up. Keep moving forward and stay focused on the end goal. You must fight, and it is your passion for what you do that will keep you going forward. Focus on all the good things that have come into your life because of your personal journey. Do not give up. You have the strength and stopping now is giving up on your dreams. Success comes to those who work hard.

Share your struggles below! Let us know about challenges you have overcome and how things ended for the best.

Obedience: Improving Client Compliance

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Many service providers struggle with client compliance. Whether it be a car mechanic who wants clients to regularly service their vehicles, a doctor who requires a patient to improve their eating habits or a dog trainer who recommends regular exercise for a dog to improve their behaviour. It can be frustrating for us when a client does not comply and it is hard not to take it personally; we may feel that we have failed them, be angry at the client for not doing the work or sad for the dog who we may believe is being treated unfairly by the client not doing the work. Relationships are complex with a lot going on between yourself, the client and the dog that could be affecting the progress. If you have not already, I recommend you read my post They are not Dog Trainers. In this post, we are going to look at ways to gain a better understanding of challenges with client compliance and brainstorm ideas on how we can improve it!

Relationship Building
This is a critical part of the job for a dog trainer, as we know if we do not get through to the person, we are going to have limited success with the dog. We need to take the time to develop this relationship with the client so that they feel comfortable with us and trust us. Most dog trainers need to build on and develop their interpersonal and communication, as I feel so many ignore the value of this important skillset. I believe that is our responsibility to develop this relationship and make it work, regardless of how we may feel about the client. This is an in depth topic, and I highly recommend The Human Half of Dog Training by Rise VanFleet. This is a brilliant book and one that every dog trainer should read!

Help Them Set the Right Goals
One of the first things you should do with a client is ask them what their goals and/or expectations are from the training. Often clients only think about the end goal or have set unrealistic expectations for their dogs. By helping to set smaller, more attainable goals, you also help improve compliance. This is because they begin to see more immediate results, which in turn motivates them to do the training. If they feel like things are too much work or too difficult, most will begin to feel overwhelmed and discouraged with the training. On the other side of this, sometimes clients do not expect enough from their dogs or feel like they will be unable to attain a reachable goal. By helping them obtain and surpass these goals, you build their confidence, which also helps to motivate them to do the training.

Ensure they are in the correct training program/class. If it is not, it may cause a regression in the behaviour or put the client and dog under unnecessary stress. It is not a failure on our part if a dog is not a good fit for a program, but we are failing the dog and the client if we do not set them up with the correct option. An example of this would be a dog that enrolls in a regular obedience program and they find the class too over-stimulating or become fearful. We should consider a reactive or shy dog class for the dog, but we may be hesitant to recommend this and instead try to resolve this concern in the current program. By doing this, you will not see the same level of success and it is likely stressful and unenjoyable for both the dog and the client. At the same time, you could also be inhibiting the success of the other dogs in the class. This is unfair to everyone and will lessen the chances this client will remain with you for training with their dog. Help them by providing them the guidance to find the right fit; whether it be another class or private training option. The right program is a critical part of client compliance and success!

Create Mini Compliance Checks
I do these more to gather information and better understand the level of commitment from the client. However, keep in mind that some of these tools or resources are not ideal for the client, so it may just provide you additional information on what they require for their learning.

For private training, dogma sends out a history questionnaire with the request that it be returned before we meet. If a client does not do this, we just go through it during the initial consult, but we do tell them that more of our time will be spent on this at the session (we also include that information when we first send out the questionnaire). We must always have some history before we meet, so at the very least request a brief summary of the concerns. However, completed questionnaires are mandatory for aggression cases. Some clients provide great detail and some fill it out quickly and in short form. This helps us to understand how to format our summaries to them as well. There may be legitimate reasons for them not completing the questionnaire, but I do make note of it as a potential sign of limited compliance.

For group classes, we send out a summary email from the orientation and request confirmation that they have received it. We follow up with those that don’t confirm, which has resulted in better communication with us and more of them reading the resources. We have also hid questions or created opportunities to win prizes within our handouts. They really enjoy this and provides some positive reinforcement for reading the materials. Knowing their preferences helps me to better assist them, which may just mean I point them to key resources versus requiring them to read large amounts.

Get it in Writing
For private training services when we train the dog for the client, we cover our expectations within our agreement. We state and have them sign that the success of the training is dependent on their commitment to the work they do with the dog as per our program. We mandate a review session with them for every four sessions or at the end of the program, depending on the service. We provide this at a discounted rate to encourage them to take advantage of the extra training and support. We also track the dog’s progress, and if we feel the training at home is not being done, we put a hold on our training and work with client on what is required of them. We ensure this is always done through a collaborative decision as we know life can get busy, so never want to put the client under too much pressure. However, the success of the training reflects on us, so we want to ensure the client understands the expectations right up front.

Consider Levels Training Classes
When I did regular progression classes that ran once weekly, I began to observe that students were at varying levels throughout the classes, some took the classes seriously while others didn’t, and some just needed more time to learn the skills. It was hard to address everyone’s concerns and I just didn’t like the way the system worked. As a solution, I developed our urbanK9 program and it has tremendously helped increase compliance and our retention rates. The clients receive a checklist for each class and must obtain all of the skills to move to the next level. It is a drop in format so works within their lifestyle and allows them to progress at their own pace. It has been a win-win for all!

Don’t Take it Personally
This was a hard one for me to get through. You never know what your clients may be going through or what experiences they have had in the past and how these may impact their commitment to training their dog. It is not realistic to expect 100% success with every client, so do not dwell on the ones that are not compliant, or allow them to make you feel like a failure. They may have different expectations for their dogs at home and sometimes another trainer is just a better fit for them. Take the time to discuss challenges and brainstorm solutions with fellow trainers, track your successes and focus on the positives!

Do you have other ideas for improving client compliance or tools that have worked well? Do you work in another industry but experience some of the same concerns and have some unique ideas we could apply? Share your thoughts in the comments below! Feel free to email me at megan@dogmatraining.com with any questions!

Nosework: Strategic Planning for your Business

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It’s the start of a new year and I love this time for my business. I take a much-needed break over the holidays and it gives me the rest and reflection time to jump right in for the start of a new year! I wrote about Houndsight and Business Planning, which I use as my 3-5 year plan. I review this one every 6 months and make changes/rewrite it yearly. Strategic planning is for my short term goals. I write a brand new plan yearly and review it quarterly. This has become an essential guide for my business and every time I stray from following or reviewing it quarterly, I feel that negative impact on my business. It keeps me focused on my goals and strongly influences dogma’s success. I think of nosework when I think of Strategic Planning as it is for short term goals and can easily change direction depending on how the wind blows. It allows me to track the success of programs and changes in my business, and has also become a great way to get my team more involved in the overall goals and direction for the business.

There are many templates and programs out there for strategic planning, but I am going to outline what I include in mine and the process I take. I only hope that you take this and build your own plan or that this at least encourages you to make this a part of your business, if you do not already. Or to ensure you use it as an active document vs one that you write and file away to collect dust over the year. If you are new to this and feeling overwhelmed, look at templates or software. You can also take Strategic Management courses; many are offered through local business or private schools. There are also some great online programs available. I am actually looking at strategiccoach.com. I will keep you posted if I enroll and share my experience with the program.

As I mentioned, I have customized my plan to highlight the key areas of my business and for where I am at with growth in my business.  For my process, I begin this the beginning of December which is when I review my full plan from last year. I do a massive brain dump  and get my key team members involved in this as well. I create documents for each area of dogma such as group classes, private training, new services, facilities, team, etc. I then have us write down every idea we have for that area – and no idea is too small or too big! We use these throughout the year, but they assist with the planning at this stage. They are a great tool to keep my head clear, but store any ideas that may come up throughout the year! I then begin writing the strategic planning document as outlined below:

Summary:

This section is fairly straightforward and it should be the last piece you write. I cover all areas and write about the successes and downsides of the year before, as well as outlining the strengths and weaknesses of the business at that time. I outline the focus for the upcoming year and our key areas of growth. I always aim to make this inspirational and provide a great snapshot of where dogma is at and what direction we are heading. When I need direction or some motivation, this can be a great section to review.

Review of the Previous Year:

I break this down in sections. In one of them I review the financial situation for the previous year. Where did we see growth or losses? How are our overall profit margins and what are some areas we need to improve on? I also list the new services/items to dogma for that year and list what we stopped. This is also where I outline our strengths and weaknesses. Be honest with this. This shows you what was successful, what was not, helps you to determine why and what you need to focus on for the next year. You will have failed in some areas, so don’t be afraid to record weaknesses. You need to be your best critic so that you can make the appropriate changes to see more growth.

Overall Picture for Upcoming year:

The first section for this one is the themes for the upcoming year. I usually have four themes and they are my key focus areas. For 2014, I had excellence, technology, profit and promotions. I know we feel like every year should involve these, but these were key areas that we needed to improve. The growth of dogma and new team had resulted in lower service that was not up to my standards. We needed to improve our systems and do more to promote, while at the same time increasing our profit margins. We had very low profit margins and in order to manage the growth and continue to expand, I needed to focus on how to increase our profits.

I also list what we need to keep in mind for all that we do that year. For 2014,  the key focus was team training, streamlining systems and I had us ask ourselves, “Is what I am doing, or what my team is doing, making dogma money right now? Is it a priority?” This was a critical part of coaching my management team on what was expected of them. As a business owner, you cannot expect them to be looking at your business with the same perspective, so this was critical to get them to operate their areas more efficiently and help them better understand how the business works and what it requires to be successful.

I also list our focus. What are we always working towards? For 2014, it was education, reputation, standards, positive energy and leading the industry. Projects that increase these areas or align with these goals became our priority. Finally, I outline our overall goals for the upcoming year. This can be everything from new programs, sales goals to specific projects that need to be completed.

Team:

Within this section, I outline our existing organizational structure and our plans for changes/growth for the next year. We have experienced tremendous growth over the past few years, so this is a good exercise for my focus. I went off this plan for the past year, which resulted in increased payroll expenses without the increase in revenue. Not only that, we actually experienced a loss in two main areas of dogma. My lesson was to stay focused on my plan for strategic growth. The end result was poor performance by team members, so after restructuring back to the original plan and terminating some key employees, we are back on track and with good growth! I want to learn from all my mistakes, so took this as another example of why a Strategic Planning document needs to be regularly referred to. During this process, we make plans for key team members, review our training procedures and update our team document which outlines the employee’s progress, motivation, goals, and strengths and weaknesses. We summarize our goals for our team and review our intiative program.

Sales and Marketing:

This is the area where we outline our key areas and plans for marketing/promotional materials. We outline our focus and refer to our Marketing Plan and Social Media plan for the year. We set dates for our large annual events and record events we will participate in. We outline our key messages for that year and what areas we need to promote more.  We also set specific sales goals for each service and any new ones we may be implementing for that year.

Accountability and Goal Setting:

Accountability was a theme from a previous year that has worked its way in as its own section. I use this to motivate my team and set out clear expectations on actually implementing the plan versus just writing it. I was finding that team would be excited to be a part of the planning process, but things would fall apart and not get completed afterwards. I outline expectations and create priority lists for each manager. They must maintain them throughout the year, and it helps us to track their progress and focus. It also helps to keep us on track and has greatly increased completion of projects!

In summary, find a formal process to help you outline your long and short term goals. We make this a fun activity and I take the management team out to Canmore for a night. I want them to feel like they are a part of our growth and success! Taking them away from the city fosters creativity and keeps the mood positive. We have some fun and get some rest away from the busyness of dogma. During this time, we also create vision boards for the business. It is a fun activity and one I find to be incredibly powerful; a topic in itself, so will post more on that at another time!

Does this inspire you and encourage you to write your own plan? What do you include in your Strategic Plan or process? Share in the comments why you may or may not write a Strategic Plan or what you have learned by doing so!

They are not Dog Trainers!

 

The title above may seem like an obvious statement, it is one that I see forgotten about all too quickly by dog trainers. Although I imagine it is a relevant lesson regardless of what industry we work in. As we become more skilled, those skills start to become second nature. In dog training, we develop proper body language, exceptional timing and keen observation skills. As our technical skills increase, we don’t even think about them as we perform them. I think most of us have forgotten about our initial struggles with handling dogs and gaining the mechanical skills to train them, and because of this we can become more easily frustrated, and even harder on our clients then we should.

I recommend that we repeat the mantra of ‘they are not dog trainers’ daily. It is so easy for us to forget and it is an important lesson to remember. I encourage my team to think of this often and reiterate it throughout the entire dog trainer apprenticeship program with my new students. I have always taught this within my apprenticeship program, but it was these new trainers and students of the program that showed me how important this lesson is, and is one that more trainers need to remember. It became more obvious as I listened to these students and new trainers constantly approach me to tell me what they noticed clients were doing wrong. This was sometimes appreciated, but for the most part they had unrealistic expectations for where the students should have been.

Learn to lower your expectations. This is nothing against the clients, but do not expect perfection with their handling, timing or mechanical skills. What we expect for ourselves as trainers, cannot match our expectations for our clients. Choose what you feel are important aspects of each skill for them to have a good understanding of first. As their skills improve, you can increase your expectations, but start slow. For example, I do not worry much about timing in the beginning, as I find with coaching and more time, this begins to improve. I see the same with saying the cue only once and their body position (unless it is making the dog nervous or uncomfortable). The dog can still learn and I have never seen these impede their ability to gain the skill. Choose what you feel you can back off of and just remember not to expect perfection.

We also forget how nerve-wracking dog training can be, especially in a group class environment. As trainers, we tend to be excellent at recognizing stress in dogs, but I think too often we forget about the other end of the leash. The students are probably nervous, may be embarrassed about their dog’s behaviour, so are likely to make mistakes in their training. Keep in mind that they are not trainers to ensure you are being kind and patient and not passing any judgement on their skills. This will allow you to be more successful with your training and in turn help them to be more successful with their their dogs! It will boost their confidence and enable you to demonstrate a higher level of empathy, which will also assist with their commitment to the training. So next time you are feeling frustrated, judgemental or impatient with your client, remind yourself of this and ensure you are not expecting too much from them.

Do you have any ways you set your client up for success or have adjusted your expectations? Do you have other skills you are more lenient of with a client but would expect from a trainer? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Puppy Socialization: Why Social Media is a Must for your Business

puppies

I consider social media as important for a business as socialization is for a puppy. Social media can be defined as the interactions between people and businesses online through websites or applications. This is your online presence and has replaced many traditional marketing and promotional tools. It can be a confusing area as there are so many tools out there, with new ones popping up regularly. In my GoodReads section on the sidebar of my blog, you will find a book called 500 Social Media Marketing Tips. I found this an excellent resource and great reference book, so highly recommend it! I am going to discuss some of the most popular social media items here and will go into more details on each in separate posts. This is not meant to cover all of them, but more about what are currently the most used by businesses. I have put them in order of what I consider to be priority items, so this will help you focus on where to begin if you are just starting out

Website:
Although this may not be considered a social media tool, it now works as the front door to your business, and should also link to your social media items (ex: Facebook and/or Twitter accounts). It is often the first impression for potential clients, so it is an area that you should invest in. Depending on your business, you may still have clients who do not use any social media tools, so a website is the only online access they have to you. There are any wonderful build-your-own tools, but I encourage you to invest in a having a web development company create your website for you. There are a few reasons for this; they can provide a unique and customized design to allow to stand out from your competition, they provide you the support you need, they have the experience to ensure your website provides the best service to your clients, they can assist with growth as some programs are limited and your time is likely better spent on something else for your business instead of creating a website.

To ensure you create leads through your website, ensure it has up to date information. Your site should be easy to navigate and allow clients to quickly find the information they are looking for. Keep your site clean and simple and do not use too many colours or bright, distracting colour schemes. At a minimum, your website should showcase your key services/products, have a section about the company and your team and hours, location and contact information. If you own the domain, but do not have your website up yet, you should have a landing page explaining that your website is being developed and how they may contact you for more information.

Check out dogma’s website!

Facebook:
Facebook still has a lot of growth to address many business’s concerns, but it is the most popular social networking tool and one I consider a must for an organization. It is an excellent tool to interact with your clients, provides affordable target marketing and is an excellent tool to reach out into different markets and promote your business. Ensure you give your page a name to enable others to tag your business Facebook page. If you do not have this set up properly, you do this through the About section and Facebook Web Address field. When using Facebook, ensure you are not just using it as a sales tool. Share related articles, funny videos/graphics, promote related businesses, create contests and add pictures/videos of your business that encourage feedback.

Check out dogma’s Facebook page!

LinkedIn:
This is an important tool for you individually as a business owner. It is considered a professional networking tool and allows you to make connections within your industry and with other professionals. It is a good idea to keep your profile up to date and spend the time outlining all areas about yourself. You can use this to promote and get the word out about your business as well.

Check out my LinkedIn profile!

Blog:
This is an excellent tool if you like to write. It allows you to provide free resources to your client, which is a great value-added service! It helps to promote you as an expert in your industry and creates the opportunity to reach people outside of your market. It also provides new information regularly to your clients (as long as you regularly update it) and can assist in relationship-building. If you provide great information through your blog, your clients will share it and help promote you and/or your business!

Take a look at dogma’s blog!

Twitter:
Twitter has provided me with the furthest reaching social connections due to how it operates. It is another social networking tool that provides quick status updates. It should be used on a more frequent basis to keep users engaged. What made Twitter unique was its use of hashtags. A hashtag is a key phrase or term preceded with the # symbol. You would highlight keywords in a tweet by putting the # symbol in front of the word. You can use more common terms or create new ones. For example, some of our hashtags we commonly use are #dogs, #yyc (for Calgary), #dogmadogs, #urbanK9 or #kinderPUPS. If you click on a hashtag, it will show you all tweets that include that specific one. You can join groups and retweet any tweets you think would be valuable for your clients.

Check out dogma’s Twitter account!

Instagram:
Instagram is a fun way to share pictures and short videos of your business. Being surrounded by dogs all day, it is easy for us to take fun and interesting pictures. You could showcase certain products or create fun ways for your clients to follow your projects or service offerings. It is another excellent tool for increasing client interaction and also uses hashtags as a key format of their services. You can download separate apps to add fun frames, filters, video editing and showcase pictures differently!

Find dogma on Instagram!

YouTube:
YouTube is a video sharing website. It may not be relevant to your business, but can provide another excellent way to promote your services and/or educate your clients. Video can be an excellent tool to set yourself apart from your competition and is ideal for promoting yourself as an expert. We are just growing ours and are building it out in 2015, so I will keep you updated on our process. YouTube is also now integrated with Google, so directly links to your gmail or Google+ accounts, which provide some excellent tools and great resources for your business.

Find dogma on YouTube!

Summary:
There are so many tools out there and this is just a small outline of what is recommended to start. Build slowly to ensure you keep each up to date. The worst thing you can do is create a social media avenue that is stagnant and rarely updated. Keep your interactions brief as most people are quickly scanning and do not want anything that will take too long. Provide quality and engaging content as this will increase the chances that your information will be cross-posted or shared, which creates free promotions for your organization. Do not shy away from social media as this is quickly becoming the new avenue for marketing for businesses. When researching companies, most people look at social media, so if you are not set up or your information is outdated/poor, the chances are you are losing a large number of your leads for your business! The best part, to start, it is all free!

Have questions? Feel free to email me at megan@dogmatraining.com.

Share your experiences, fears, or success stories with social media in the comments below!

Houndsight: The Importance of Creating a Business Plan

guinnisseyes

Photo credit Brindleberry Custom Pet Photography

I was recently reading about the vision of dogs and how they have poor vision up close, but much better vision at a distance. It led me to thinking about how as entrepreneurs we must have exceptional long term vision and plans for our businesses. I love setting goals and planning for my business. It keeps me motivated, inspired and is a way for me to ensure I am on track. I have been surprised at the large numbers of entrepreneurs that do not have a business plan as I consider this document a vital part of my business and the success I have experienced. The business plan I have for dogma outlines my 3-5 year goals and plans. I rewrite it once a year and review it every 6 months. I also do a strategic planning document that outlines short term goals that I write yearly and review with my management team every 3 months. We will discuss the strategic planning in more detail on another post.

So what exactly is a business plan? It is a document that outlines the structure, products and services, financial forecast and goals of your business. It also outlines your competitive niche, the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and marketing plan (which I also keep as a separate document that we will discuss more at another time as well). I am not going into the details of writing a plan as there are many great resources online that help you to develop a business plan, such as this page at entrepreneur.com. If you are just starting, I highly recommend using a software program such as Business Plan Pro. I used this one for when I first wrote the Business Plan for dogma. I was really struggling with getting it started and it was excellent. You will only need to purchase it once as it provides you with the structure and all of details you will need to develop one, and then can just update it each year.

I know we all feel busy as entrepreneurs, but you must schedule the time to write your business plan. If you are pressed for time, or just have a hard time getting it started, break it down into sections and write a small bit each day. If you are not a skilled writer, put your ideas and key points together and hire someone to write the business plan for you. You want to schedule the time for reviewing your plan each year as well. I do this at the start of each calendar year as it is a quiet time for me over the holidays and something about the start of a new year motivates me.

Setting goals and documenting them are critical for an entrepreneur’s success, and creating your business plan is one of the best ways to do this. If you are looking at financing or leasing a property, you need to have a formal business plan for them to review. A business plan demonstrates that you are serious and have put careful thought into your business. It is easy for time to fly by and for us to get caught up in the day to day operations. If you do not put the time into focusing on the goals for your business and reviewing your progress, you may find yourself trying to recover from losses, unsuccessful programs or a downward slide with your business and not knowing why. A business plan may not guarantee success, but running a business without it you are sure to experience challenges achieving your goals. Stay focused on what’s important each day, but do not forget about your long term vision and plans.

Drop It: Lessons from Dogs on Stress Management

I love this and enjoy seeing this saying making continual rounds through social media. It is amusing, but I think it also offers some practical advice (although I don’t recommend actually peeing on things 😀 ). The lesson I take from this and our dogs is once something is resolved, or it creates negativity or unnecessary stress in your life, drop it!  This means removing it from your life and/or to stop worrying about it. This is much easier said than done, so I am going to discuss some ways to help with this.

I started learning about this concept when I first read The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama (it is listed on my GoodReads link and is one I highly recommend). I was going through some challenges while working at an animal shelter and was struggling with the poor choices they were making for the animals. It was an extremely hard time and was taking a toll on my overall well-being, so I began searching for some guidance. I was becoming more negative and emotionally drained and could not pull myself from this. It was impacting my life and I needed something to change me when I found this book. It was a life saver for me.

The whole book is wonderful and has many guiding principles, but let’s first discuss the section on self-created suffering and why this is so important and why we need to learn to ‘drop it’. “All too often we perpetuate our pain, keep it alive, by replaying our hurts over and over again in our minds, magnifying our injustices in the process.” “To a large extent, whether you suffer depends on how you respond to a given situation. …Although you may not always be able to avoid difficult situations, you can modify the extent to which you suffer by how you choose to respond to the situation.” These are powerful concepts and had a tremendous impact on me. What was I doing that was creating my suffering and what could I do to help myself? I think too often we are trying to change external forces and ignore what we may be doing to create our own problems/suffering.

By not practicing drop it, we are holding onto negative thoughts which creates unnecessary stress and self suffering. However, this is something many of us have done for a majority of our lives so it is a hard habit to break. I started by just taking note of every time I felt negative or upset about something. Was it the result of something that was happening to me or was I creating this feeling on my own? For example, when seeing my neighbour who frustrated me I began to vent about her. This was creating a negative feeling for me and had absolutely no impact on her. It was a moment of self suffering on an issue that had passed and was no longer relevant. I needed to drop it. I had heard from someone about visualizing the act of dropping something. She would picture putting whatever it was in a suitcase, setting it down and removing it from her thoughts. I suggest having some way to acknowledge and visualize the act of dropping something as well, as it proves to also be a reminder for me to keep it out of my mind.

So how does this all apply to business? You do not have time to dwell on the past and you cannot afford to let negativity take over your life. You must learn to drop it. This is also a powerful way to lead by example and demonstrate positive mental thinking to your team. It also helps with conflict. If I need to address a concern and it is taken care of, we don’t talk about it again (unless we are referring to the lesson gained from it). By dropping it, I show my team that we are moving on and I recognize their effort to change.  We don’t dwell on the negative past, but rather focus on the positive present.

There are so many lessons to learn from our dogs, and living in the moment is one of them. They are not sitting and stressing about the past, worrying about the future or focusing on negativity. If it doesn’t matter to them, or if it doesn’t affect them positively, they move on. Let’s learn to drop it so we can focus on the good and move forward with the right attitude and perspective to help our businesses and team succeed!

Do you have ways you help yourself to drop it? Are their certain emotions you attribute with self suffering? Share in the comments below!

A Dog’s Loyalty: Core Values for Your Business

Loyalty

Loyalty is a word that most people would use to describe a dog. It is something that we love the most about our dogs and is an extremely special trait of theirs. We would say loyalty is a core value of a dog; a guiding principle that dictates their behaviour. Core values are the underlying beliefs of an individual or organization. I consider them a vital part of my business in relation to recruiting and growing my team, client relations and strategic planning. They are my soul and they put the heart into my business.

If you have not done so already, you should pick core values that represent you and that also represent your organization. You are the leader of your business, so they must reflect your individual beliefs that you consider important traits in yourself and others. To determine your core values, begin by just writing down a list of as many you can think of. Or you can search online for lists and select the ones that mean the most to you. Core Values List is a great resource for this. Narrow down your list and take your time to ensure you pick the ones that truly represent what you and your business are about.

Once you have determined your core values, they should be predominantly displayed throughout your organization. Share them with your team and implement them into your on-boarding process. They truly do represent what you are about and assist with your team development. For the first few years of my business, the only team I removed were ones that went against dogma’s core values. You cannot teach core values, but you can coach hard skills. We also watch for this when a team member first starts with us. We will end the relationship early if the new team member consistently demonstrates anything that goes against our core values.

If you already have core values, think of ways to integrate them further into your day to day operations and ensure you lead by example and live by them. This is the most important part of them; that as a leader you must truly live by your core values. Remember them and use them to help guide your growth and decisions. I have learned I need to do more with ours and part of that review made me think that we can add some more. Currently, we have five and I would like to extend this to ten. I am going to seek my team’s input on this and have them help me select them and let me know what they think represents us. I’m very excited about this and think it will be an excellent team building exercise. Once we determine this, I am going to put them into a bright graphic format and build them more into everything we do. I will keep you posted on how it goes!

What have you learned from developing your core values? How have you felt it has affected your team? Share your experiences below in the comments!