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.

Holidays
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!

Call off the Dogs: Increase your Success by Removing Negativity

stick out tongues

Call off the dogs: to stop attacking or criticizing someone.

I’m writing this post specifically geared towards dog professionals as it continues to be an ongoing problem amongst us, which I think has to do with what a passionate and emotional group we are. Many times, I am ashamed by our industry, but overall I tend to feel disappointed. I am sure this happens within any industry, but I feel it is a large problem within dog training, or rather the pet industry as a whole; critiquing and fighting against each other. We are far too concerned about what others are doing, do not support each other and we are suffering for it. We are happy when another business makes a poor choice, fails with a client or is facing a challenge. We sit on the sidelines and judge each other, and we become obsessed with communicating what others are doing wrong. We have all been guilty of this and in the long run, we are only hurting ourselves. In today’s post, I am going to share some of the situations where we tend to react poorly, share some stories and identify how we can change our behaviour to bring more positive change to our industry.

“We took our dog to this dog training school and saw zero results and we were unhappy. We would like to register with your classes instead”

I know we have all heard this at one time or another. And it could be a very valid statement. However, what do we tend to first think about? We validate it by jumping to conclusions about all the things wrong that business did. In my experience, these should be more of a flag for us regarding lack of compliance. Or perhaps it was not the right approach or class for that client, but the business may not been aware of the challenges until the client was already there. And like we have experienced many times, the client may have appeared happy in class and never provided any feedback that their goals were not being met or even what their real concerns were. We have the advantage of starting out differently with this client because of this feedback. This does not make us better than the other training school. I always try to use this as more of a flag about client concerns versus a negative against another training school. In Calgary, we are full of excellent dog training schools, so if a client tries to complain about one, I do not participate and encourage the negative response. I may instead say, “I am sorry to hear this and I am sure it was just a miscommunication as we know that dog training school typically sees excellent results. We are happy to help you…” Do not encourage negativity and complaining, as you will then bring it into your business.

“They are stealing my ideas”

I know this is a hard one for all of us. I did write a full post on this topic as it is a challenging one for us. However, I think this is the most common concern amongst trainers. The industry is full of trends and over the years I have seen how this works. We have seen the introduction of fear and reactivity classes, playtimes for puppies, clinics and so much more. None of these ideas are unique and can be found around the world. We each have our own unique way of delivering the material and packaging our programs. We have our own client base and network. Unless someone steals an exact full program of yours or a specific name, try your best not to think about how they stole it from you, and instead think how wonderful it is to see they are offering it as well, and take it as a sign this new service is obviously in demand and will be successful. I have seen people tear themselves apart obsessing over what is being stolen from them. Put on your blinders and just keep focusing on what you are doing. Research similar businesses in other countries for new ideas and focus on what makes the most sense for your business, not on what others are doing. You truly get what you put out, so avoid focusing on the negative and what makes you angry, as this will have a negative impact on your business and your overall well-being.

“They are doing it all wrong”

We all do this at times and it has become one of the biggest problems of our industry. Ultimately, we are all reaching the same goals, but just have some different steps to get there. Or perhaps we have different goals and what one business is reaching for is not the same as another. For dogma, we do not strive for perfection in obedience. It is impressive and we love to encourage clients to excel at these skills, but we just take a different approach. It is not about a perfect sit stay, but perhaps a successful tool to prevent the dog from jumping on guests. This does not make one better than the other, so focus on your own business goals and match them to your client’s goals and forget about how everyone else is doing it. The main part is that you and your client are happy, and in turn you will see growth and continued success. It is a drain of your own energy to be concerned about how others are doing things. If you want to learn what is going on in the industry, attend conferences, seminars and participate in online learning. Focus on your own growth and match your programs to your own core values and goals.

“Another dog training business just opened, now I need to worry more about competition”

For an industry that is fighting for more regulations and increased awareness of proper training and handling techniques with the public, we should celebrate the growth of more businesses. The pet industry is booming, and this means nothing but good things for all of us. I hear this concern a lot and many question why my business focuses on building more competition as we operate a successful Dog Trainer Apprenticeship Program which has resulted in an influx of dog trainers in the city. Yes, we are creating our competition, but this is one of the things I am most proud of. There is room for all of us. Clients will choose what is a best fit for them, and this may just come down to something as simple as what time a class is offered. If you are struggling, take the time to look at your own marketing efforts. How are you promoting your business? What are you doing to network and get your name out in the industry? What relationships have you built? Review the success of your services and perhaps it is time to remove or add services. When things slow down, this is not the time to focus on competition and place blame elsewhere. You must listen to this feedback and make changes. You drive the direction of your business, not your competition.

Moving forward

Operating a business is full of challenges and rewards. As an owner, your behaviour and attitude reflects within your team, your messaging and your interactions with clients. Remove all the distractions and keep negativity away. The advice to remain positive is not just a cliché. It is a key component of your success. It takes time and it is hard, but the shift will have a huge impact on your business. Start small by identifying a negative, critical or judgemental thought when it enters your mind. Think about why you feel that way and how you could address it in a more positive light. Try to celebrate and be genuinely happy when others are successful. Block everything that brings negativity to you; this may be a social media group, a colleague or even a team member. I made a choice two years ago to begin removing all negativity from my business and although it has been a challenging path, it has been full of tremendous rewards I would not have achieved otherwise. Negativity holds you back and you’ve got way more to give. What a gift for us all when we begin to have a more positive impact. Take care of yourself and start this today.

While writing this, I have been thinking about ways I can change and promote this more as well. To start, I am going to bring back our shout outs we used to do every Saturday. It was an excellent way to promote other businesses and send out some great energy. I understand this is all much easier said than done, so I suggest you vow to start a small change today. For example, it may be to stop complaining. Or perhaps it may be to remove yourself from certain groups or people. Or it may just be to stop commenting on things that make you angry online. On a more proactive level, get out and network with others in your industry. Socialize with them and enjoy some great times together. Whatever it may be, start it today and begin seeing immediate positive results personally and for your business.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

Perimeter Training: Setting Boundaries in your Business

bernese running

Perimeter training is when a dog is taught to stay within a boundary. I was reading about this today and it got me thinking about setting boundaries in our businesses. Although this post is geared towards dog trainers, it applies to any business owner, as we can quickly make exceptions for clients to keep them happy. This can be an essential part of client care in certain situations, however, it is important you outline some boundaries for yourself to prevent burnout and to help manage difficult clients. During the start up phase in your business it is normal to want to accommodate every client request to help you to gain the business. I am here to tell you that the sooner you set the boundaries, the greater success you will see in your business.

Give them an inch and they will take a mile
This is a good mantra to have with every new client. Do not mistake this with poor customer service as you can deliver excellence without making sacrifices. In my experience, every client who has asked to bend the rules, extend exceptions to our policies/procedures, or wanted a service at a lower rate for whatever reason, has turned out to be a high-maintenance and difficult client. I am not saying to never do this, but wait until you have developed a relationship with them as they should earn this privilege for when it is possible.

Set a schedule
I do not know how often this happens in other industries, but it is a common problem dog trainers have with clients; being asked to work outside of business hours. Schedule yourself and set your business hours no matter what stage of business growth you are in. In the beginning, it was not uncommon for me to make exceptions to this. I would work around the client’s schedule to get the opportunity to work with them. If I did it all over, I would still do this, however, as I began to get busier, I did not set a schedule soon enough. This resulted in little downtime and I did not enjoy the work as much as I had previously. I learned I needed to set my schedule, stick to it and book within it. And amazingly, the clients never had a problem making this work and I was rarely asked to schedule outside of this.

Develop policies
It is vital that you have policies for your business as it sets clear expectations and guidelines for the clients regarding the services. This avoids confusion, miscommunication and helps to resolve conflict more effectively. If you have not already, develop policies for refunds and cancellations. Also be sure to provide documentation for training services that clearly outlines the expectations for the clients and requirements. This may outline equipment, vaccinations, or classroom requirements. Many of our policies have been created from disagreements with clients. We do our best to learn from each situation and how to avoid them in the future, so aim to better communicate our expectations and requirements to avoid the same outcome. They must be clear and concise to ensure there is no miscommunication and they must be presented upfront so the client is not surprised.

Be fair
We all know that life happens and we want to ensure we are always being fair. This means that if a client has a viable reason that you should make an exception. This is especially true if it is the first time the situation has happened. For example, we have a late fee policy at our dog daycare. However, if a client is running a few minutes late and they are typically always on time, we are not going to charge them the late fee. If they do it again shortly after, we waive the fee, but ensure the late fee shows up as a zero cost on their receipt. They are then told we will need to charge them the next time it happens, and if it does, we must be sure to charge them. If we do not, we show them that they can ignore our policies with no penalty.

Part Ways
If a client continues to ignore your policies, it may be time to say goodbye. This can be done in a professional matter. We always try to refer them to another business and let them know they may better address their needs. Difficult customers drain your energy and bring unneeded negativity into your business. Protect yourself and your team and do not be afraid to remove them if they are a constant struggle to keep happy. If a client is requiring an unnecessary amount of our time and does not respect our boundaries, it is time to consider parting ways.

They will respect you more
Being upfront right at the start demonstrates that you are a professional business. By outlining your policies and being clear on expectations, clients respond to this by respecting your time. They understand that you treat everyone as equals and that they are not the only one you are working with. It creates a much stronger relationship and will improve their overall compliance. When you set boundaries and provide clear expectations, all while delivering exceptional customer service, you will begin the attract the right clients and experience greater success.

Do you have stories to share or additional thoughts/ideas on this topic? As always, share them in the comments below!

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

not happy about treat

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!