The Business Lessons I Learned from My Dog Trainer

19 Jun

While training my 8-month old Jack Russell Terrier, Baxter, I realized the lessons learned from my dog trainer also apply to business.

Don’t Provide Too Many Distractions
The first day of training, my trainer came to the apartment and noticed that Baxter had a dozen toys strewn around the living room. I thought I was providing Baxter with several selections from which to choose. I thought that by providing every toy imaginable, I was giving him a lot of alternatives for enjoyment. However, the trainer quickly pointed out that a dog (like a customer) has a very short attention span, and by providing many options all at once, I was limiting his attention to each. Alternatively, by providing Baxter with one toy at a time and fully engaging him in two-way participation, he was getting more out of our time together and I was as well. An additional benefit was that we began learning more about one another.

How does this translate into a business lesson? Well, sometimes more is just more. Sometimes more “toys” are just a distraction taking time away from the more important opportunities for engagement. Business articles have convinced organizations that they need to be present on all social platforms regardless of the relevance to their particular business or association. Subsequently, many organization leaders believe if they are not participating in every social media site then they are missing out.  Instead, take the lead from Baxter and invest time, energy, and resources into one or two social networks that provide the most engagement, and shared benefit. (Determining which social networks that may be is another article all together.)

Build Trust to Build a Relationship
Trust is always the most critical ingredient in any relationship dog and human alike. That said, trust is something that takes time. It is something that is earned through the delivery of promises made and promises kept.  Baxter is learning to trust me by my delivery on “promises” I make to him. I “deliver” his food at the times of the day he has come to expect. I show him appreciation for his loyalty, positive behavior, and good citizenship. Most importantly, he trusts me to keep him safe during a thunderstorm, and protected from choices he makes that are not in his best interest.

How does this translate into a business lesson? You probably already know the answer to this one. Earning a client’s trust is the most critical component of building a successful relationship. I know I must deliver on my promises. Respect a client’s time and opinions. Demonstrate appreciation for their loyalty. Ensure my product, services, and advice is in their best interest.

Provide Rewards to Increase a Pattern of Behavior
Developing a pattern of behavior is a process. If I want Baxter to retrieve a ball, I need to reward him. If I want him to sit, stay, or stop eating gum off the pavement during our walks, I need to reward (or provide an incentive) for him to do so. He has to receive a reward for the actions I am encouraging. Eventually, he will develop a natural pattern of positive behavior.

How does this translate into a business lesson? If I want clients to visit my web site, blog, or business, I need to provide a reward/incentive. In the business case, the reward might information they cannot get elsewhere. It might be a product, service, or best practice that they find useful. If I provide these “rewards/incentives”, clients will look forward to visiting my web site, reading my blog, or visiting my business. Over time, I will earn their trust and become a pattern of their behavior.

More lessons to come from my dog trainer, and Baxter!


One Response to “The Business Lessons I Learned from My Dog Trainer”

  1. August 28, 2012 at 2:01 am #

    Cindy! So glad you created this site…

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