5 SMALL BUSINESS LESSONS I LEARNED FROM MY DOG

Tracy Sheen

Legend, just bloody awesome.

I am a better person when I have a dog in my life, but it wasn’t until I went into business for myself that I realised my dog was also a very wise business coach. Here are 5 lessons about business I learned from my dog, Obi.

1. DON’T BE AFRAID TO TAKE A BREAK

I lose track of time sitting in front of my computer, being exceptionally busy for hours, yet at the end of the day not actually achieving a whole lot.

Obi has taught me that you need to break the day up. He schedules my breaks around 3 – 4 times per day by trotting in with a toy in his mouth. I stop what I’m doing and go outside to play for around 15 minutes. He then takes himself off for a laydown and I can get back to work refreshed and ready to go.

Lesson: Don’t be afraid to take a break. Get away from your computer, get outside without your phone, stretch, enjoy the sunshine and just be present in the moment.

2. IT TAKES TIME TO LEARN A NEW TRICK

There is an old myth that ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I can attest to this being rubbish. It just takes time, patience, and a willingness to work at the dog’s pace.

Business is the same. 3 years ago I decided I wanted to create a podcast. For several months I was rubbish at editing and production, but I hung in there. I was patient and worked in small chunks. Now, 3 years on I have started a 2nd podcast which is listened to in over 70 countries and I help other people create their own successful podcasts.

Lesson: It is absolutely possible to pick up new skills within business, you just have to give yourself permission to keep practicing until you get it.

3. GROOMING IS NOT ALWAYS FUN, BUT IT’S IMPORTANT

Obi loves running around our backyard. When I bring his brush out I can sense the eye roll he’s giving me about his need to meet my grooming standards.

One of the many things I enjoy about working from home is not having to do hair and makeup every day and being able to work in track pants and a t-shirt. Much like Obi though, I understand the importance of grooming. We may like to think of ourselves as the next Steve Jobs getting round in a turtleneck and jeans, but unless we have serious runs on the board we need to be mindful that first impressions still count.

Lesson: Remember who your ideal client is and dress to the standard they set, not the one you are comfortable working in at home.

4. SNIFF OUT NEW OPPORTUNITIES CAREFULLY

A dog’s sense of smell is amazing. Just like Obi I have learned that whenever something new is offered to me, I need to ‘sniff’ the whole situation out very thoroughly.

I go away, do my research and weigh up my options before responding. In most occasions a measured, timely response is better than hastily agreeing and lamenting afterwards.

Lesson: Weigh up new opportunities. Allow yourself some time and space to ‘sniff’ out the proposed opportunity before committing one way or another.

5. ALWAYS TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS

When a dog meets someone for the first time they take in all available data and then decide how to react based on instinct. There have been a few ex-boyfriends in my past that I wish I would have listened to my dog about.

Humans have this instinct too, as business owners we need to hone this skill. If you are getting warning signals when you meet a prospective client take some time to sit with why that is. Sure, you can still choose to work with them but forearmed is forewarned as the saying goes.

Lesson: We all have our inner instinct pre-loaded. Learn to tune into these feelings and trust what comes up for you in the moment.

There are so many other lessons my dogs have taught me that I just couldn’t fit into this article. Things like always being on the lookout for cats (or new opportunities) and making sure you wag your tail when you meet people (nonverbal communication is important). Lessons are all around us, take a look at what’s going on in the moment and look for the learnings that you can apply.