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!

Our Dogma: Streamlining and Creating Systems in your Business

smart dog

We are still developing our employee manual, Our Dogma, as it is a continuing work in progress. It has been a hard balance between being a new and growing business that is just figuring out its processes, and also ensuring we have the procedures in place to ensure things go smoothly. We have experienced great growth over the past few years with the opening of our second location and expansion of our services, but it has been filled with challenges. The majority of these challenges could have been avoided with better documentation of processes. If you are just starting out, save yourself the time and begin documenting all of your processes as you create them. If you have been operating for some time and feel overwhelmed, have challenges holding your team accountable and/or are in the midst of expansion, you must ensure you have your procedures documented.

A good employee manual provides your team with clear instructions on how to complete their job effectively and in an efficient manner. It outlines the day to day operations and also enables seamless training and ensures procedures and processes are available to anyone who may need them. As a small business, we typically have key employees who store a lot of how the day to day operations happen within their own minds ( as business owners we are often the worst for this)! I always think of the what if myself or that person gets hit by a bus? Do we have the documentation in place to seamlessly transfer someone else into that role?

Outlining processes allows you to delegate roles, hold your team accountable to the work they do based on these procedures and helps to ensure things are completed to the standard you set. They should provide clear instruction to avoid confusion and any miscommunication. It also helps with training new team members and keeps everyone on the same page. Your team will appreciate having clear steps and knowing what is expected of them.

The employee manual should provide the history of company, its products and services, the team structure, core values and procedures and processes for all areas. You should include a list of fireable offences and outline the dismissal process. You want to put as much information on the business as possible to avoid miscommunication and keep expectations clear.

I know it is a daunting process, but going through it this past year has taught me a great deal about my business and my team. It has shown me key areas where I can delegate, services or departments that require restructuring, which employees may be struggling or exceling and given me a better understanding of why, and shown me the required organization structure of dogma. A thorough employee manual is also important if you plan to sell or franchise your business.

Growth was excellent for dogma, but also brought on new problems for me. Going though this process is showcasing what I need to develop and what we are doing right. It has also given me better knowledge on how to effectively plan for growth. Having more systems in place and ensuring all operations are documented, will allow for more successful growth in our future.

The end of one year and the beginning of a new year is an exciting time and it should be for all entrepreneurs. Take advantage of the quieter holidays if your company slows down and review your past year. Set goals for the new year and focus on streamlining your business. Do not forget to delegate this to your team! Have them help you by getting them to document their daily duties. This can be a great team building activity. You will see an immediate benefit, and you and your team will be thankful for it!

I am looking at joining a program for further streamlining my business and my role for dogma. If I do, I will share my experiences here!

What benefits have you gained from streamlining your systems or what challenges have you had because things were not well documented? Share any feedback, ideas or stories in the comments below!

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!

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


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!

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.

Obedience: Improving Client Compliance


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!

They are not Dog Trainers!


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

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

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

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

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