Meet my dog Cooper; he has moments of brilliance as well as stupidity. My wife and I are both work at home professionals so we spend a lot of time with him. He doesn't get left home alone much and gets to go outside a lot. Overall Coop has it pretty good as far as a dog goes. This morning I was fishing with him and he wandered off. I found him lying down on the river bank next to a complete stranger that was petting him. I called him and we took off upstream. I was thinking about Cooper's normal behavior and realized how much of what he does in his day to day can help you run your small business.
When I take Cooper fishing we have different reasons for being out there although we both love it. While I'm there for the sport of fly fishing he is there for other things. He likes to chase birds, swim and find deer carcasses to roll in.
In your small business while all employees are there for a common reason the thing that motivates them differs from person to person. Some people may be driven by money while others care about flexibility. One person may be more comfortable with the same work day in and day out while another craves different challenges each day. It is important to realize that each individual in your business is motivated by different things and you need keep them all happy and satisfied to succeed.
Properly training a dog is a lot harder than I thought it would be. We got Cooper when he was 8 weeks old and the first day we had him he fell of the dock at my in-laws lake house into freezing water. While that had nothing to do with poor training I realized that he was going to need a lot of help growing up into the dog I wanted him to be.
In your business training is so critical when you are scaling a small business. You know how you want people to behave but sometimes you just don't know how to properly communicate with them to get the results you want. When you have problems with training a dog what do you do? You ask people in your network for advice or get the help of a professional. The same happens in business. Proper training is really what allows a business to scale.
Cooper LOVES dog treats, and I mean loves them. Sometimes I'm pretty sure all Cooper hears in his head is "food, food, food" over and over again. When Cooper does something good I reward him with a treat. However, when Cooper is bad he is sure to hear it from me and I correct his behavior.
I think that too often business owners are critical of bad behavior but don't let people know when they have done a good job. It really sucks for employees to never hear anything positive, but to get harped on when something bad happens. I also believe that business owners far too often jump to money when someone does something good. I believe that saying thank you, giving encouraging words or some freak bonus like a half day goes a long way.
One of my most favorite things about Cooper is his ability to sit and assess a situation. If Cooper is put in a situation where there is a lot going on he literally sits, studies what is going on and then reacts. When I have friends bring their dogs over to our house typically two dogs will start chasing each other wildly around the yard. Cooper tends to sit and take everything in before he decides what to do.
It is really important to think critically before making a business decision. I also believe you should think about the way you react in certain situations. One example I like to give is when you get an email that really pisses you off. Your reaction is to immediately hit reply and then got into a fury of typing that almost lights your keyboard on fire because you're so mad. When I find myself doing this I save the email in drafts. I come back a few hours later or even the next day and read what I wrote. I would say 9 times out of 10 I delete my response and re-type it. My point is that instead of being reactive to everything that happens in your business it is really important to think critically before you act.
Cooper Listen and Cooper No are two of my most used full names for our dog. All in all Cooper is pretty good at listening to me, but when he gets on a deer scent it's over. However, listening is a two way street because he tells me things as well. He definitely tells me when he is hungry, when he needs to go to the bathroom and when he senses danger.
You may find yourself telling your employees and your customers to listen to you. However, it is also very important to listen to them when they have information for you. Employees may tell you about an inefficiency that they have noticed. Customers can give you information about ways to improve your product or service. You definitely need to be heard as a business owner but it is equally important that you listen.
I really enjoyed writing this post because I really like hanging out with my dog and learning from him. Sometimes we are not sure why we write, sometimes we write for SEO and sometimes we write just because it was a really fun topic to write about.