Hindsight 2020 – Reflecting on 1 year of Covid

A blonde french bulldog with a blue mask

It made me realize that shit was getting real when we ventured into an empty downtown pub. This was the same night they had cancelled the Calgary Roughnecks game. We had friends in town who were going to go with us, and another friend was supposed to be performing with his band for St. Patrick’s Day, so we decided to go there instead. There was only a handful of people in what would have normally been a jam-packed party. This trend continued through the evening as we ventured through the city – arriving at places that were not open and there only being small groups out.

Saturday morning, I began to fully comprehend the impact of what was happening and what it would mean for my business and team. I looked at the shutdowns happening around the globe and began to prepare for it happening here. Grocery stores were being cleaned out of essential cleaning supplies and more. By Monday morning, we laid off 75% of our team and I kicked into an emergency mode that lasted well into the Summer. At the time, we still did not know how it spread. Could you catch it through a dog? Were we putting our remaining team at risk? Would we make it? Would this business I had put blood, sweat and tears into for almost 15 years be yanked out from beneath me? Would people I know die?

Picture of empty grocery store shelves with signs saying limit of 1 per customer
Empty store shelves

We finished that week with only six team between two locations and revenues of a whopping $120/day. I did not need an alarm clock anymore as my eyes would fly open each morning with a deep, impending fear inside. I would rise and head straight out to my computer. That year, and for the first time in Dogma’s lifetime, I had taken a large loan to finance a full rebrand and had been well into a large reno project at our Chinook location. I am still involved in a legal case from a 6-figure project where we had paid the contractor and they didn’t finish the project. We were still recovering from that, plus this new loan, so any safety net I had was gone. Kris had gone through some really challenging years with his health and had moved full-time into Dogma in January. I felt like I had failed everyone and put it all at risk.

Thankfully, I am fueled by adversity. I don’t quit. I had a group of incredible team who were there to do what was needed. Like so many others business owners, I had no choice but to get to work. I would start my day around 6 a.m. and go well into the evening. I laid out our contingency plan first so I knew each step we would take based on what we could guess may happen. I knew this would help me with direction when my emotions were high, I was drained but still had some decisions to make and had to keep focused on work. I cried when Justin Trudeau announced CERB. I knew team would be taken care of and it took tremendous pressure off my shoulders. If Dogma did not make it, they would be ok. Thankfully, we never did have to cut pay or much else for team, as it had been our priority. We kept our benefits going and ensured team knew they had access to their Employee Assistance program and whatever else they needed. Next, it was time to take care of the clients.

5 people sitting in chairs eating food and keeping socially-distanced
Team meals spaced out

Suddenly, everyone was working at home with their dogs. Many had young dogs, and everyone was feeling stress. Kris and I converted our living room into a studio, and we taught virtual training classes at no cost 4 nights/week. We were exhausted but it was wonderful. People wanted to connect. The dogs keep us distracted, smiling and it was so much fun. It was the start of this magical movement of people supporting each other online and building this incredible community as we all struggled to navigate the changing world. We put together the Dogma Cares series of six free webinars to help dog owners navigate Covid. We ran a Kids & Dogs Facebook Live twice a week. We transitioned to live-streaming puppy classes. Our goal was doing what we could to support dogs and the people who love them. We felt so lucky to have puppy therapy at our fingertips and did what we could to spread that joy. Kris took over the day-to-day and I set to work on restructuring our entire business. We had already laid out the plans to move our training programs online that had started with our dog training apprenticeship programs. This was put on pause, and the focus was on how to support dog owners virtually.

A dark-haired lady and a orangy-brown and white dog on leash in a house. The dog is lying down and the lady is standing.
Teaching classes from our house

After investing in our rebrand and new site, I made the gut-wrenching decision to invest in a full website rework to move it onto a learning platform. I have run my business with relative ease at making decisions. I trust my intuition, I’m gutsy and I generally have a clear vision of the path ahead. Not this time. My brain was cloudy, it was scary and I agonized over each decision. But I put my head down and worked. It provided me a focus. A purpose. And kept me elevated. I used this work to get through things. I can remember those early days as we anxiously awaited any new announcements. Every time I took those few minutes to stop and listen, to sit away from my computer, to breath and let things settle, I cried.  I can remember the immense gratitude I felt to be Canadian and the surge of relief as assistance programs were announced. It was reassuring and terrifying that so many were going through the same thing.

As a business, we took on almost $200,000 of debt. And fast. We laid off Kris and I didn’t pay myself to help lessen the impact on Dogma. I had two options. Throw in the towel or figure out how to survive (I can’t tell you how many times I wanted them to just say that we were shut down). Thankfully, we weren’t nearly as impacted as so many other industries, but we were not essential either. It caused this ever-changing game of guessing what we could or could not do. We still were not 100% sure if dogs could spread the virus and wanted to do our part to keep everyone safe. We set the standards in our industry for the care and training of dogs and we decided to do the same with Covid. Our doors are still locked. We laid out strict protocols in classes immediately. We are still not running in-home training. The whole time we made sure our team knew they did not have to be at work. Many had spouses working from home. It was chaos, but at the same time, it leveled us up and created a drive and commitment we had not seen.

The whole team went into solutions mode. What can we do better? Where are the gaps? Where are we losing and what is unnecessary? What do we want to do? How do we do it in the best possible way? We flipped it all upside down. Navigating a business through a pandemic is one thing, but restructuring your whole business and focusing on change management is another. It’s hard to drive change, have high expectations for work and balance the task of caring for team and ensuring everyone was coping. I had to keep a brave face on and ensure the team felt inpsired and positive, despite what I was feeling inside. You cannot do this without the right team or the right clients. And looking back on it, we could not have accomplished what we have while we were fully operational – one of those strange silver-linings of the pandemic.

In January, after shutting down for the holidays and giving everyone a paid break so we could all rest, I felt like I could breath again. It felt like my head finally came above the surface. We had brought team back and we hired new team. It was tough, but how lucky I felt that we made it. It made us feel stronger. We still have a hole to climb out of, but at least we are climbing now. Many businesses are still struggling so please support them. And go even further than that. Look at how you can serve them better. Don’t be an asshole. Many are just trying to survive. Many are exhausted. Be patient and understanding. Yes, you may be suffering, but don’t take it out on the workers and the businesses who are doing their absolute best while being exhausted. Get out and help the businesses that support your community. Short on cash? Give them a positive review. Promote them. Do whatever you can. I promise you, doing good will help you as well.

Even with being separated from others, it’s the people that helped us get through this. I know first-hand the influence your inner circle has on all areas of your life. I feel incredibly lucky for the people in my circle. For my dear friends who regularly called and text to see how things were. To the ones who forwarded any information and help they could provide. To the ones who were also fighting to get their business through. To the ones who shared their anxieties and fears. To the ones who we met online and shared laughs, played games and connected with. To my remarkable team who stepped up to a level I did not feel I deserved. Who were honest, who let me know they would do what it took and demonstrated incredible creativity, resiliency and compassion. I am not sure what I would have done without this.

5 blocks of people on a video call.
Zoomg get-togethers

As I look back on this year, I feel grateful and I feel hopeful. I do have rose-coloured glasses and I am proud of that. Yes, we can criticize decisions that have been made. Yes, there were far more deaths than necessary. The world felt like it was on fire at times and I felt such despair at witnessing the vitriol and selfishness of so many. But, at the heart of it, when I reflect on the good, I see a new form of gratitude. An appreciation for the simple things. A better idea of where I want to spend my time and my energy, a clear idea on who I want to be around, and an immense appreciation for Canada. I feel a renewed passion for my business and a desire for the simpler things. My greatest lesson from all of this is that the world is always changing. The only certainty in this life is that things are uncertain. You can fight change, you can be stagnant, or you can evolve. It’s not easy to adapt, but it’s necessary,

We were lucky to not have been directly impacted by Covid. My heart breaks for the lives that were lost. I hope the world can heal from the hurt and the anger we’ve witnessed. In dog training, we often refer to a behavioural term, extinction burst. It is the phenomenon of a previously reinforced behaviour temporarily increasing when the reinforcement for the behaviour is removed. Essentially, it’s going to get worse, before it gets better. Perhaps we are experiencing this on a large scale? Whatever the ultimate outcome may be, I sit here one year later and have a song playing that perfectly sums up how I’m feeling in this moment.

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter.

Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here.

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun

And I say it’s all right

Little darling, the smiles are returning to the faces

Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun

And I say it’s all right

I hope the smile is returning for you all. However this year has impacted you, be proud that you have made it this far. Let’s not forget this time and these lessons – our need for connection, to be kind (to ourselves and others), to take care of each other and that time is precious. People are getting vaccinated and the light at the end of hte tunnel is getting brighter. What a tremendous accomplishment this is. Let’s get out and enjoy that sun.

Building Resilience

Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. It is thought of as toughness and the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, or significant sources of stress – such as living through a global pandemic. We think of resilience as the ability to move through and overcome these difficult experiences, but it can also involve profound personal growth.

In the beginning of the pandemic, most of us were experiencing an adrenaline-fueled response. This meant we were experiencing an arousal response, which for many created a fighting spirit and the act of pulling together. Trainers who work with behaviour will have a good understanding of the effects of over-arousal; increased frustration, reduced cognitive ability and exhaustion. Many of us have moved onto this stage and are experiencing what is commonly referred to as pandemic fatigue. As we move into the New Year, it is an ideal time to understand how to build our resiliency, foster new growth and avoid burnout.

Resiliency is not a trait that only some people possess. It is something that we can build through our thoughts, actions and behaviours. What are some ways we can develop our resiliency as we move into 2021?

Connect with Others
The pandemic has changed how we connect, and those connections have become more meaningful than ever. Make the time to reach out to family and friends. Organize virtual coffee dates, meals and/or game time. Join communities or become more active in the ones you are involved in. Connect with like-minded people who share your interests and leave you feeling uplifted and supported. We may not be able to connect physically but that does not mean we have to be alone. One of my favourite ways to connect with others right now is going for a walk with the dogs. It’s easy to social-distance and it’s a mood-boosting activity for us and our dogs.

If you run a business, take this time to find new ways to connect with your clients. Send out a regular newsletter, email follow-ups, create an online community and engage with them more via social media. This time has enabled our industry to advance further online and people are looking for new ways to engage with others and learn new skills. Take advantage of this time when so many dog owners are looking for virtual support.

Help Others
Research has shown that stress management and building resilience can be enhanced by serving and connecting with others in need.1 Helping others helps us gain different perspectives which often enable us to experience more gratitude. Serving those in need also aids in reducing stress, improving empathy and compassion, and reducing mortality rates. With so many ways to help such as monetary donations, volunteering your time and/or sharing your knowledge and expertise, it’s easy to find ways to give back to cause(s) that are meaningful to you.

Giving back is good for business as well. I recommend outlining plans for doing good and social initiatives within your strategic plan and goals for 2021. More people and communities are looking to business to lead social initiatives. It builds resilience for the business, stronger relationships with the community and improves morale. Some ways we can help in our industry is to raise funds, collect donations, volunteer our time, create awareness, share resources, and offer our expertise to not-for-profits helping dogs or any organization that is assisting your community. I highly recommend Adam Grant’s book, Give and Take, to learn more about why giving back is not only good for us but also leads to greater success.

Practice Self Care
We have all heard about the importance of self-care to help manage stress. It also helps build resiliency and goes far beyond treating ourselves to a nice spa experience. One of the most important lessons from 2020 for me was that I needed to prioritize self-care to ensure I could lead my team effectively and to achieve what was required of me to navigate the challenges brought on by the pandemic. This included getting proper sleep, maintaining healthy habits, getting regular physical exercise, meditation, getting outdoors, and enjoying regular time in a bubble bath or curled up reading a book.

Another part of self-care I consider to be important is how kind we are to ourselves. It has been an incredibly challenging year. How are you reflecting on this past year? It is not about what you have accomplished but what you’ve learned. It is ok to not do anything. It is ok if you’ve been exhausted and have not been as productive as you would have liked. Be kind to yourself. Forgive any mistakes and turn them into lessons. Getting through the year is an incredible accomplishment in itself. You made it through 2020. Celebrate that, practice gratitude and take care of you.

The topic of self care is a big one but my best word of advice is to schedule it in your calendar for 2021. I have a morning routine focused on self care to start each day. I schedule my walks with my dog, exercise, time unplugged, social time with friends and family, exploring my hobbies and purposeful downtime. I continually improve how I schedule my time and ensure I commit to myself as much as I do to my work. It has enabled me to be more productive, less stressed and build resilience.

Seek Help
You are not alone. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. If you are struggling, reach out to those around you for support. Connect with the dog training community. Join a business or professional group. Hire a business coach. Outsource areas of your business that you do not enjoy or are not good at. If you have team, delegate. You cannot control all of your circumstances, but you can grow by focusing on the challenges you can manage with the support of loved ones and trusted professionals.

Seek professional help if you are struggling. A licensed medical health professional such as a psychologist can help you to develop an appropriate strategy for moving forward. A list of resources in Canada can be found at https://www.ccmhs-ccsms.ca/mental-health-resources-1.

Building resiliency takes time and practice. It is a lifetime journey and the only guarantee is that change and challenges are inevitable. We will get through this and can already see the positive impact it will have on our industry – stronger connections, a high demand for our services and the ability to offer more revenue streams through online services. Let’s focus on supporting each other, helping pet owners and self care for a strong and successful 2021!

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/do-the-right-thing/201207/helping-others-offers-surprising-benefits-0

Raining Cats and Dogs! How to Manage Being Busy

dog outside umbrella small

An entrepreneur wants to be busy. However, the life of a business owner can be overwhelming and a type of busy like no one else will understand. Managing a heavy workload is challenging and can lead to burnout. Burnout is an entire topic on its own, but it can have devastating effects on you personally and your business. For this post, I wanted to take a more proactive approach to burnout and discuss ways to prevent it by providing tools to ensure you can better manage your busy times. Last year, I reached torrential levels of busy and knew I needed to step back and get things back in balance. This is why I have not had a post since October and during this time I have learned a great deal that I wanted to share for my first post for 2016.

Brain Dump
There may be a more eloquent term for this one, but this is what I do every time I am feeling overwhelmed. And it is literally what it sounds like; I take every idea, task, frustration and item that is overcrowding my brain and I dump it onto paper. I just write it all out and immediately feel better. Every time I feel overwhelmed, like I cannot think clearly, or unorganized, I know it is time for a brain dump. Try it. And do it any way that works best for you; on paper, the computer, napkins or putting notes in your phone. Don’t worry about the hows of this process, just dump your brain!

So many people do a little bit of everything and end up getting nothing done. After you have done your brain dump, walk away and take some time to yourself. When you are ready (and do not wait too long), go back to your brain dump and categorize everything you wrote down. I keep brain dump sheets based on each area of my business. This is where I store all of my ideas and to dos and I add to them every time something new pops into my mind (or put it into my phone until I can transfer it).

I only take items off a brain dump and put them on my task list when they are priority. Most times, we think everything is a priority. But if you are thinking about each and every thing you have to do, you overwhelm yourself. A past business coach taught me to go through and grade my tasks A-D. A’s and B’s can go on your task list, but B’s do not happen until A’s are complete. C’s move onto your task list as you complete items. And D’s are items that can be delegated. If you are feeling more stressed than usual, only put one item on your A list and do not think or do anything else until that item is complete. And do not avoid the tasks you hate the most. Start with those or the most challenging ones and keep the ones you enjoy for later on the list!

Identify Deficiencies
The next step it to identify ways to improve your processes. Are there certain tasks that take far too long and you know there must be a better way? Have you been dreaming of investing in an app that will streamline some of your work? What are you waiting for? If you are feeling overwhelmed and on the verge of burnout, it is time to start to identify deficiencies and create solutions. And if you are not sure what the solutions may be, start asking others in your industry for programs they have used to help them spend their time more effectively. Do not get scared of pricing. Take the time to analyse the cost of these programs and identify the ROI (return on investment) for them.

For example, we had recently identified that scheduling of team was becoming a very long and confusing process that no one enjoyed. Errors were often made and too much time was being spent on something that was a critical, but time consuming task for the business. We looked at a variety of options and the most expensive one provided the best results. We were looking at adding $50 a month to obtain this service, which at first seemed expensive. However, we were able to identify that it would save us up to 20 hours a month, and once we realized that, the $50 cost seemed like a steal.

Create Systems
Streamline and create systems for your business. Even if it is just you right now, it is important that you start to document your processes and create systems. This is a critical part of your growth and will prevent time wasted and being in a panic trying to catch up on this during busy times. We should strive to be more proactive in our business as too many people operate by reacting to day to day occurrences which creates unnecessary stress. By creating systems, you create step by step processes that become habits. And when they become habits, you become faster at getting them done. This also makes training new team much more efficient and enjoyable for all. It also aids in quality control and ensures consistency within your business.

Have a task that you absolutely hate? Is there a part of your business that you will avoid at all costs? Is there an area that is falling far behind and you want nothing to do with? These are all signs that this is something you need to look at outsourcing. Are there certain parts of your business that you know someone could do much better than yourself? Or is there an area you know could be done more professionally and be a better representation of your business than what you are able to do? These are both signs of another task that you should outsource. This follows the same points outlined under the Identify Deficiencies section; think about the ROI on these items and assess if your time is better spent on another area of your business. You only have so many hours in a day and you will see your business grow much further if you can begin to work on it versus in it. Outsourcing is an integral part of business growth and success.

This topic was brought up in a Facebook group I am on and there were some excellent suggestions. A friend mentioned thinking of outsourcing on a personal level as well, which is equally as important, especially when we are feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. This may mean looking at ways you can outsource personal tasks such as hiring a house cleaner, a dog waste pick up company, having your groceries delivered or bringing in a company for yard maintenance. Your time is valuable in your business, but your personal time is as important. Do you want to spend it doing tasks at home that you hate?

Take a Break
And finally, give yourself time off. This seems like the last thing we should do, especially when we can barely think straight because we have too much to do. But you need a clear head. Even if you just give yourself a day to get caught up on some sleep and take care of yourself. Unplug and recharge. And plan vacations. I cringe whenever I hear entrepreneurs bragging about not taking time off and never taking holidays. Do not be proud of this. You are not helping your business when you do not take care of yourself. Stepping away from the business offers you time to reflect and think about it versus becoming absorbed in it. If finances are an issue, take a staycation and get caught up on personal projects, pick up an old hobby and enjoy time with your loved ones. Your business will thank you for it.

Do you have ways you get things back on track when the busyness has caused you to derail? Have you used any specific business apps or programs that helped you better manage your time or run your business? Please share in the comments below or feel free to email me at megan@dogmatraining.com!

Alpha B.I.T.C.H.: Why This Is Not a Bad Term

alpha bitch tiara 

Double standards piss me off. Whether it is the fact that a woman in the same position as a male is paid on average 21% less. Or how a male could be severely punished for a crime he commits, while a female is likely to receive a much lower conviction, if at all. Double standards are everywhere. I’ve experienced double standards numerous times in my business. Whether it was when the bank gave my ex a $45,000 business loan when he had no business plan or financials records. And it took me over $1 million dollars in sales and a solid business plan that was submitted yearly to get basically the same amount. Or how I can give a male advice for his dog and not be taken seriously, but he will walk to the other end of the room and listen to my fiancé Kris give the exact same advice, and then I watch the client apply it with enthusiasm.

I’ve been able to accept and utilize some of this, but it is still happening too often. I’ve been appalled at how poorly people respond to a female that is driven, makes her own decisions and creates her own life. Within this post, I am going to speak more of my own experience, but I see this happening all the time to women everywhere. I’ve even caught myself doing this. This post is not about complaining with what has happened to me personally. I love who I am, what I do and would not trade in any of my experiences as they have shaped who I have become. Instead, I want to share my personal experiences to demonstrate what a struggle we create for each other and the impact our actions can have.

We have created a world where females must conform to society’s rules, and if they do not, they are often ridiculed, judged and gossiped about. In a majority of these same situations, if it had been a male, we would be praising them. Or how a strong woman with fair opinions and assertiveness is viewed as bossy or threatening. While things may be slowly changing, double standards need to end and I am going to share a few ways the exist, what we do to cause them and what we can do to change. I am speaking in terms of female entrepreneurs, but these apply to any female.

Stand by your Decisions
This applies to everyone, but women typically struggle more with this. To make it worse, when they do make a decision, it is almost guaranteed someone will not only judge or criticize it, but also assume it was with ill-intent and they are being bossy, bitchy or any other derogative term we may use to describe a female in this position. Part of being an entrepreneur is making hard decisions. You may have to cut back on costs, end programs, lower wages or let go of team. Or you may have an underperforming employee you need to remove. Or you may need to choose not to implement a new system the team are pushing for. Whatever the reason, you make the decision based on what is best for the business. And this sometimes means that you are making decisions not everyone will understand or you know they will be unhappy with.
Regardless, you made the decision for the overall business. Stand by this decision and remind yourself why you made it. Even when others are jumping to conclusions or providing a different version.

One of my hardest decisions I had to make was to remove one of my longest employees who had become a close friend. I agonized over it for months and provided ample opportunity for this person to improve. I kept everything private, desperately wanted them to succeed and kept modifying their position to help them. After multiple demotions and putting them on final notice the time came to release them. It was becoming unfair to myself, my team and my person and my business was suffering because of it. It was incredibly stressful and took a tremendous toll on me. I then witnessed how many people jumped out to support this person and assume the worst from us. Why would this be? Do you think I would have got the same reaction had I been male? I can’t help but feel that people would not have taken it so personally. There are always things I would change from a hard lesson. But the one main thing I would have done differently would have been to do it sooner. It may have been my hardest one, but it has been my greatest lesson to date. Keep your chin up, ignore the hate and know that it always works out for the best. Stick to it.

The next time you feel the need to judge someone for a decision, trust that this person has good reason for it and it may be information that you are not entitled to. If they have demonstrated that they are intelligent, fair and compassionate, why would we assume the worst? Our world is full of this idea that people are intentionally behaving a way to upset others. Step back and respect people’s decisions and mind your own business.

Stop Apologizing
Once you have made your decision, do not apologize. I think this is something women are far more likely to do, especially if your decision upsets others. Apologizing only makes it looks like you are questioning your decision. You are not sorry for your decision, you are sorry it makes others uncomfortable or upset. And unfortunately, many decisions you are going to have to make will not be good for everyone. Do not focus on the people who may be uncomfortable with it, but rather focus on why you are making the decisions and who it will benefit in the long run. Look at the big picture.

This is very important if you have team. I have high expectations for my team in order for us to deliver the excellence that I have built my business on. I found myself worrying about delivering this message and that perhaps I was expecting too much from others. However, I have built a core team that not only understands and strives to deliver this excellence, they improve upon it and are grateful for the opportunity. I learned to stop apologizing for my expectations and be proud of what I was building. Those expectations are a large part of our success.

I came to the realization that if it were a male who released poor performing team while building a successful business, that people would admire and respect this. They would appreciate that he has built a business based on excellence. Instead, others assume women have done something wrong or call her a bitch.

I have learned to stop apologizing for upsetting others. I realized the people I felt I had to apologize to were the same ones who had caused damage to my business or were not truly supportive. The affect of a negative or poor performing employee affects my entire team, the dogs we care for and our clients. I owe far more to all of them then I do to the one person that this affects negatively. It is ok to make a decision that may upset others if you are taking care of the greater good, have been fair and are not doing anything will ill-intent. You do not need to apologize for it or explain it. We truly do attract what we put out, so remove anything that affects you or your business adversely. Your organization will thrive and grow because of these decisions.

Put on a Brave Face and a Smile
This is the hardest part of being a leader. No matter how worried, angry, resentful or upset you may feel, you must keep your emotions in check. Your behaviour is a direct reflection of your team and your business, and unfortunately, as a female you will have far more critics watching how you behave. The double standard exists and is shown daily through mainstream media and how we respond to females who make mistakes or are struggling. They are called names, ridiculed and worse. If a woman responds to something negatively or with emotion, many are quick to judge as well.

At times, I feel like many people are just waiting for successful people to make a mistake and are actually wanting them to fail. I know this exists for everyone, but there are far more people out to judge females quickly, and unfortunately many of them are other women. So how do you deal with this if you are a female entrepreneur who is feeling judged, criticized or struggling to get through a hard time when you feel everyone is waiting (hoping) for you to trip up? Stand tall, put on your brave face, smile and just keep putting out positivity. Hard times are part of owning a business and be sure you have good support with friends, family, other business owners and/or a mentor. At these times, others are waiting for you to react poorly. Do not stoop to their level, you are better than this. Focus on the good and remind yourself what you did to get here. This too shall pass and you want others to remember how well you handled it, even if you are terrified on the inside or desperately wanting to lash out.

Do What Makes YOU Happy
Life is short. Do what you love and do what makes you happy. I had many nay-sayers when I first set out to open dogma. People were unsure of the business model and felt like I was taking on too much. I observed many people who were miserable in their current work and very unhappy with life. I did not want this and knew that in order for me to avoid this I needed to be responsible for my future. So, I set out to do what made me happy, not what society told me to do.

Safety is not about conforming to expectations. I was unhappy in a marriage so I ended it. And it was incredibly hard and stressful. However, I received little support and struggled to understand why. Looking back, people can be uncomfortable when others make decisions to make themselves happy. And yes, these decisions may hurt people, but as long as you know it is the best for everyone and can sleep well at night, life is too short not to make these decisions. And this is harder on women as we are still expected to take care of others first. Remember that taking care of yourself and making yourself happy is what allows you to do more for others. Surround yourself with people that understand this.

Support Others
Ladies, we can be the worst for not doing this for each other. Supporting, encouraging and celebrating others successes is the best way to destroy the double standard. Respect and trust others decisions. Be proud of the females that are making changes and being successful. I cringe at how often females assume the worst in other females. It has been disheartening to see how my relationships have changed as I have experienced more success. It has been one of my hardest lessons and I want to ensure we change this.

Give females the same level of respect and admiration we give males. If she is running a successful business and removes an employee, it is because the employee was not a good fit for the business, not because she is a bitch. If there is gossip about her and/or her business that seem untrue or unlike what they or their business is built on, let’s not contribute and participate in this negativity. Let’s instead recognize her high standards and be proud of her for building a successful business. And if she is successful and doing well, let’s celebrate that and commend her for it. We are all human. We are all doing the best with what we have. Women, let’s stop contributing to the double standard and support each other. We still have a lot to offer, are changing the world and our daughters of the future deserve better.

Have other examples or experiences to share? Feel strongly about this and just need to vent? Be sure to comment below.

Does this strike a chord with you and you want to see it change? Follow the above and please share and spread the word. Let’s show the world what a powerful force we are when we all work together.


Fetch: Work Hard But Play Harder

Enjoy life
Enjoy life
We all know that being an entrepreneur is not easy. It takes an incredible amount of hard work and a great deal of your time. There are many nights with minimal sleep, you cannot commit to as many social engagements as you used to and it can appear almost impossible to have time when you do not think about your business. And we love it. We love our business, we are passionate about what we do and we would not want it any other way. If you are in start up phase or growing the business, you actually wish you had more time for the business. And this is what sets us apart from the rest. No excuses, no complaining and no regrets. We love what we do and we will work hard and do whatever it takes to see our vision materialize. But, you will struggle if you do not give yourself time away from the business. The success of your business is critical to your ability to work hard and also play hard.

Burnout happens and it drains you, can make you resentful and drags everything down. If we are not taking care of ourselves, we lose our ability to manage our stress. It can have devastating effects on our health and emotional well-being. As a leader, you must watch for the signs and have a plan in place to prevent burnout. There will be many times where you are tired and over-worked, but ensuring you have scheduled off-time is a great way to avoid full burnout. I am going to share some of my ways I manage this to ensure I can operate at my best for my business and team.

People question me all the time about how busy my life is and assume I do nothing but work. I do work hard, but I also feel like I experience more quality down time then most others do. I value my time and truly do feel that life is too short so want to do the best with the short time I have here. Part of that involves my mission with my business; to revolutionize and enhance the lives of dogs. There is a great deal of work and responsibility there. My drive to lead changes in this industry gives me the energy to commit a great deal of my time for this mission. And I see this in other entrepreneurs all of the time. I was at an entrepreneurial event last night and loved speaking with others about their businesses. Everyone lights up with passion, excitement and energy. This is what gives us our energy and it inspires me to see that spark in others. That spark is why we work hard.

But, we must also play hard. We need a work-life balance. However, it may not look the same for everyone. Some people do leave their work at a certain time, turn off the cell phone for the night and make an active effort to disconnect. Some take weekends off. Some take holidays or have a special getaway. Whatever it may be, you need to ensure you are doing it regularly. Taking time away from your business allows you to reconnect with family and friends, get caught up on rest and just helps you reflect on the business in a way you cannot when you are working in it.

Enjoy A Hobby
Do something you love outside of what you do for a living. Read. Play a sport. Paint. Try new things and find ways to experience different activities. These are great ways to focus your mind on something else and can prove to be a perfect way to escape the daily grind. Some of these may also be a great way to spend quality time with a friend or family member.

Daily Down Time
There is a need to decompress daily. I start each day with yoga. This is uninterrupted time to experience stillness and stretch. It is an excellent start to the day and I notice a difference in my coping mechanisms if I do not do it in the morning. Find something for yourself to add in to your morning routine. It is worth that earlier wake up. I also love my time walking my dogs. I can do this at any time during the day. It is great bonding time with the dogs, as well as with my partner when we all go out together. I consider this a time for reflection. I go to a park that feels like I am out of the city, I enjoy nature and it always makes me feel better. Other ways to gain this are through sitting down with family and friends for meals, playing games or just having uninterrupted time to converse and enjoy someone else’s company. Value this time.

Quick Getaways
I feel lucky that we live close to the mountains. If times are stressful or I know we are coming up to a busy time, we always make time for a quick getaway out of the city. This may be just for a drive, or maybe for a walk, or maybe even for a meal at one of our favourite restaurants in another town. Don’t spend your time watching tv or lying around doing nothing. Give yourself these quick getaways at least twice a month. The change of scenery is good for us.

I plan frequent holidays. These can be a week away, a weekend away, or maybe just one night. We monitor our spending and are always budgeting for time away. When I know I have an upcoming holiday, it motivates me to work and I can pour much more energy into my projects. And you don’t need to spend a lot to do this. We rent places that allow us to cook our own meals and seek out the best deals. My partner, Kris, and I are both business owners, so we do a lot of what we call ‘working holidays’. These are very productive. We still go away; perhaps to a cabin or apartment rental. We get out and enjoy the new town, but are still available to team, answer emails and work on projects. We love this time. I feel like I have recharged my battery and being somewhere new provides inspiration. Being away from the business also allows me to look at it differently and is where most of my best planning happens.

I know many of us feel like we cannot get away from our businesses. You must. Stop making excuses and make this happen. What happens if there is an emergency? Plan for this now and test it by starting with some small getaways. Take a look through my post on streamlining on ways to prepare your team for when you are not there. And take care of yourself. Put yourself first. Find ways to get yourself away from the business and then enjoy the positive impact it has. Make quality down time for yourself. If you are feeling drained and stressed, get away. Find ways to step out of your business and start small if you need to. The success of the business depends on how well you treat yourself. Work hard but don’t forget to play harder. Life really is too short, so make sure you get out to enjoy it.

Do you have unique ways you give yourself an ideal work-life balance? Do you struggle with burnout? Have you found good ways to avoid it? Please share with us below in the comments!

Fight Like a Dog: Never Give Up


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.

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 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!