Six Ways Running A Small Business Is Like Raising A Rescue Pit Bull

I started my freelance writing business in 2010. My family and I adopted an adolescent pit bull mix from a rescue organizationYoung black and white pit bull with family on adoption day in late 2015.

 

Although the two endeavors may seem unrelated, I’ve discovered many parallels exist between being a “mom” to our pittie, Lulu, and running my business. Both have brought their fair share of challenges and triumphs. And in many ways, they’ve required a similar mindset and methodology to move things in a positive, productive direction.

 

What launching/running a small business and raising a rescue pit bull have in common:

 

  • You need patience.

Building a successful business doesn’t happen overnight, and there are often setbacks along the way. Similarly, gaining the trust and respect of a rescue pup may require an extended time frame. When I transitioned from a corporate job to starting my own business, it took a couple of years before I went from “feast or famine” mode to having a consistently full plate of work from clients. After adopting Lulu one year ago (she had two homes and was in residence at a rescue twice prior to coming to us), we’re still working on some trust and behavioral issues. Patience isn’t optional when raising a dog that has been through disruption and disappointment—nor is it optional when building a business.

 

  • You can’t get lazy.

Starting and running a business requires your energy and attention nearly all of the time. Likewise, pit bulls are of a breed that typically needs A LOT of exercise and mental stimulation. You need to stay motivated and put forth constant effort to make things work. Lulu needs miles of brisk walks each day, bouts of play when she can go “all out” to expend pent-up energy, and training exercises to stimulate her brain. Without those things, she becomes mischievous and less obedient, akin to a naughty toddler.

 

Similarly, your business will retaliate if you ignore its basic needs. Unless you tend to every aspect of running your company, you’ll eventually lose control.

 

  • Bad behavior, if not corrected, could come back to bite you.

I don’t mean that literally. Pit bulls get a bad rap even though they ranked 4th among 122 different canine breeds in temperament testing by the American Temperament Test Society, Inc. But I digress.

 

With Lulu, I’ve learned that consistently reinforcing good behavior and discouraging what isn’t desirable has helped her gain more self-control and confidence in stressful or overstimulating situations. Mixed messages don’t work when training rescue dogs—and they don’t work in business either. If you pick up bad habits and don’t make the effort to follow through on what you begin, you’ll either miss—or screw up—opportunities. Exercising self-discipline and setting ground rules are the keys to accomplishing your goals.

 

  • You might bite off more than you can chew if you don’t do some research first.

Although I’ve always had dogs as part of my family, Lulu is my first pit bull. Because her breed is so widely misunderstood, adopting her brought with it a higher level of responsibility than if we had rescued a different type of dog. Thankfully, we took some time to educate ourselves about pit bulls before jumping in and bringing her home. Oh, we still met some surprises and challenges, but having a foundation of knowledge and understanding has definitely helped us.

Similarly, if you don’t prepare yourself with some self-education before starting and running a business, you could find yourself overwhelmed. With legal, accounting, marketing, sales, and every other responsibility to manage, you need take stock of what you know, what you don’t know, and what resources you’ll need to cover all the bases.

 

  • There’s no one-size-fits-all system for success.

Some training techniques that have worked for other pit bull owners have not worked for us. Some popular approaches to thwarting undesirable behavior either excite Lulu, putting her into crazy overstimulation mode, or they have no effect at all. We’ve had to go through a long process of trial and error.

 

Running a business successfully also requires experimentation. What has worked for other business owners won’t necessarily be the right M.O. for you. While it’s to your advantage to be open to advice from others, consider that your situation isn’t the same as theirs.

 

I’ve also discovered that to some degree I need to adjust my working style to accommodate individual clients’ needs and preferences. Although I have some standard rules of engagement that I’m not willing to comprise, I’ve found it’s extremely beneficial to exercise some flexibility. For example, with some clients I collaborate and exchange information predominantly via email, attaching content via Word documents. With others, I share content via Google Drive. And then others prefer using Trello. The point is, you’ll likely find your clients will have their own way of doing things, and you’ll add value and gain loyalty by accommodating them. Before you agree, however, make sure their approach will work efficiently for you and won’t add unreasonable amounts of time or cost.

 

  • It’s well worth the hard work.

There’s satisfaction in seeing positive results after you’ve put mind, body, and soul into an endeavor. This is true when your business is thriving and when raising a rescue dog who becomes well adjusted in your care.

 

When I think about how I went from “zero” customers and feeling as though I had to grab whatever work I could find to now having loyal, quality clients who often max-out project schedule, I’m thankful and fulfilled.

 

As for Lulu, I feel pride and a sense of great accomplishment at how far she has come in so many ways since we brought her home a little over a year ago.

 

Assuming the “Leader Of The Pack” Role

Whether you’re running a business or raising a pit bull, to make it work you must pledge your commitment to putting forth the effort and not shying away from the challenge. You’ll have good days when the world is all belly rubs and off-leash romps. You’ll have crappy days that feel like long, long walks on a short leash.

As the pack leader, it’s on you to make the most of opportunities and overcome obstacles.

 

Your turn: If you’re a entrepreneur and pit bull (or other breed) dog mom/dad, what parallels have you drawn between running your business and raising your rescue dog?

And for those of you just considering making a pet a part of your family, remember to “adopt don’t shop”!

Ways To Make Every Day A Take Charge Tuesday

It feels great when you know you’ve got control of your day, doesn’t it? As a small business owner, steering the ship versus getting Take Charge Tuesdayconstantly caught up in rogue currents allows you to chart your course and accomplish more. What better day than today to start making a more conscious effort to be the boss of your business instead of letting it be the boss of you?

Here are some ways to take charge of your Tuesday—and every other day for that matter:

 

Plan! Schedule your work for clients, your administrative tasks, and anything else that you know will demand your time.

Sure, the unexpected will sometimes arise and interfere with your best-laid plans. But with a schedule to guide you, you’ll be less likely to veer too far off course. Bonus tip: Schedule some “wiggle room” into your day to accommodate unanticipated client needs, technical issues, etc.

Don’t let email rule you; rule it. 

Suppress the urge to constantly check your email. Consider limiting the frequency at which you open your inbox so it doesn’t disrupt your workflow. Rather than let it interrupt your productivity all day long, plan to check it 2 – 3 times per day, applying the advice in bullet point number one.

Don’t keep your smartphone in the same room while you’re working on projects or tasks.

If you’re not expecting an important phone call from a client, project partner, or vendor, keep it out of reach. Or at the very least, turn off notifications and the ringer or forward calls into voice mail so you won’t find yourself distracted by the constant rings, dings and buzzes. Of course, if your business is one that by nature needs to regularly deal with emergencies, this tip may not be a realistic option. But for most of us, our contacts will experience no hardship by needing to leave messages we can respond to later when we can give them our full attention.

Don’t accept projects or clients that aren’t a good fit.

Sometimes you’ll quickly realize an opportunity isn’t ideal because of the scope, volume, or type of work. Other times, you may need to go with your gut instinct. As a business owner, you need to respect and make the best use of your time, talent, and energy. Choose projects and clients carefully, selecting those that align with your aspirations and goals rather than those that will suck the life out of you.

Begin the day by deciding to do one thing differently.

No matter how small or seemingly insignificant, think about what you can change in your processes, systems, and habits to give you more control and make your day run more efficiently. The three previous bullet points might be a good place to start.

A few other ideas:

Delegate a task that would be better done by someone else.

Start using a social media management tool like Hootsuite or Buffer to save time.

Unsubscribe to email newsletters that you never read.

Eat better.

Get enough sleep.

How will you take charge today?

Did I Just Say That?? 4 Words that Could Destroy Your Professional Credibility

Your professionalism can make or break the deal as you communicate and collaborate as a solopreneur.  When talking – Oops gestureeither when meeting one on one or when presenting to a group – you can instantly downgrade your authority and credibility a notch or two by repeatedly making annoying speaking faux pas. Whether you use any of the below because of nervousness, uncertainty of what you want to say, or bad habit, consider making a conscious effort to limit them in your conversations.

Spoken Words that Could Make You Sound Less Professional

LikeI’m like, “Why do so many people say like?” I’m calling myself out on this one! I know many other people who use it conversationally, too. For me, it’s a bad habit I’m working to break. Occasionally using it won’t do much damage, but frequent use will make you sound like a preteen star on a Nickelodeon sitcom.

Um – We tend to use this meaningless filler when we’re gathering our thoughts and searching for what we want to say next. Used sparingly, it won’t be too distracting. But when inserted before or after every sentence it detracts from your message. You’ll sound more together by inserting a silent pause instead of an “um” as you find the right words to use next.

You knowThis is another overused phrase, you know?  If the people you’re talking with already know, why are you telling them? This, too, is usually used out of habit. Again, used minimally it won’t hurt, but overused it will make you sound less professional than you are.

Cuss words – While they sometimes have a place and purpose, often they don’t. Know your audience before you use expletives. Some people are tolerant of them, but others aren’t. Not only will you risk sounding unprofessional by using unnecessary cuss words, but you’ll also risk offending people. Before you curse, ask yourself if it really is the best way to drive home your point. Beware of using swear words gratuitously and freely to the point where they become a hard-to-break habit.

What other words or speaking habits do you think make professionals look/sound less authoritative and respect-worthy?

Image courtesy of Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

By Dawn Mentzer

Solopreneurs: 3 Things to Consider before Saying “Yes” to a Volunteer Opportunity

Solopreneurs’ entrepreneurial skills and experience – and our flexibility in scheduling our work – make us attractive candidates for leadership positions at community and professional organizations. We’re the quintessential volunteers. Driven to make change. Dedicated. Available.

And volunteering on committees and serving on boards of directors brings you tremendous opportunities for both professional and personal development.

By giving your time and talent, you can:

  • hone your skills as a leader,
  • make new business connections, and
  • enjoy participating as part of a team (even solopreneurs don’t want to always be in solitude!)

But before you jump in and grab the first volunteer opportunity that comes your way, you need to recognize that volunteering takes time, energy and focus.  Sometimes lots of all three! Avoid overextending yourself by considering…

  • Time commitment expected

Ask the organization how many hours it expects you to devote to the position each month – and for how long. Naturally, monthly involvement could vary depending on what events and activities are in progress, but get an average. And what is the term of the position? Are you committing to one year? Two? Three? Then take inventory of your existing commitments – volunteer, professional, personal – and carefully assess whether or not you can accommodate the responsibility.

  • Meetings schedule

Find out when and how often your committee or board meets, and ask  if the organization requires people in your position to attend a minimum number of meetings. Verify that the days and times of required meetings won’t impede your ability to serve your clients. If it’s likely that business commitments will regularly trump your availability to attend meetings, the opportunity might not be a good fit for you.

  • What’s in it for you?

Admirable as it is to volunteer your time to the greater good, you need to be sure you’re gaining something from the experience. Think long and hard about the knowledge, skills, connections, and credentials you expect to take away. Don’t feel guilty about wanting something in return for your efforts! Organizations benefit most from volunteers who have enthusiasm and purpose. It stands to reason that you’ll be more energized and committed if you see both personal and professional value in your involvement.

Volunteering can boost your business acumen and bring personal fulfillment, but the decision to do it needs careful consideration. Make sure you: believe in the cause, can accommodate the commitment, and will derive benefits that justify the sacrifices you’ll be making. If you do, both you and the organization you’ve selected will reap the rewards.

Your turn: What volunteer endeavors have helped – or hindered – your business success? If you’ve had volunteer experience, what advice for managing the commitment do you have for other solopreneurs?

 

 

Be nice! It’s Good For Business.

When you run a business, you need to be tough. You often need to take a stand. You need to be persistent.Smile

You also need to be nice.

While chilling with my family last night, I caught part of an episode of “Undercover Boss” where DirecTV Chairman, President & CEO Mike White went incognito to observe first-hand what front-line employees from various areas of his company deal with on a day-to-day basis. Of course, it’s always a hoot to watch the big guy struggle doing what others do for their paychecks day in and day out, but what made the segment memorable for me was the genuine appreciation and consideration Mike White showed for all people at all levels of his company. He was nice…to everyone.

Mr. White’s sincerity not only elevated him to top of the heap on the likeability scale, but it also made me feel warm and fuzzy about his company. After the episode concluded, my husband said, “It makes me want to sign up for DirecTV service.” I imagine there were thousands of other people thinking the same thing. Which goes to show that “nice” can be a powerful asset to someone who represents a business.

If you are the face of your business, how you treat people makes a difference in the perception of your company. Nice doesn’t make you a pushover or spineless. Being nice doesn’t mean that you compromise your principles or agree with everyone about everything. To the contrary, it shows a strength to respect others for their unique qualities and that you tolerate different approaches to doing things.

So always…

  • think before you speak.
  • give consideration to your tone when you write.
  • and be nice for the good of your business – and your conscience!

Have you ever not done business with someone or a company because their owner or employees weren’t nice? Have you ever stopped following anyone on social media because of how they treated others?


Dialing 8 Project

Consider joining the Dialing 8 Project! A forum for learning, sharing & getting the most out of your social media efforts for your small business.

Image: healingdream / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As an Entrepreneur, You Reap What You Sow – And So Do Those Around You

By Dawn Mentzer – Solopreneur & Freelance Writer

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On Sunday, I traveled out of town for the day to witness my niece’s baptism. During the pastor’s sermon, she talked about taking responsibility – and action – to effect change and progress. Wishing and praying are all good, but at some pointRemember: You reap what you sow you’ve got to put forth effort into “doing” something rather than “hoping” that it gets done. “You reap what you sow,” she said…in all aspects of life.

That applies to us personally and also professionally. And it’s precisely why it’s especially relevant to solopreneurs. Our personal and professional lives are so closely entwined that all the things we do (or don’t do) impact us full-force.

More significant, however, is that our actions – or inaction – can affect those around us. Others, too, reap what we sow.

Whether you’re embarking on starting a business or are already in business for yourself, you need to be aware of that and be sensitive to those who might be caught in the “cause and effect” of your choices.

Here are a few of the ways others might reap what you sow as a solopreneur and member of the business community:

  • Lack of (or lower-quality) family and friends time – If you let business pressures consume you 24/7, you either won’t have time to spend with your loved ones, or you’ll spend time with them, but not be “present” mentally and emotionally. Evening meetings, administrative catch up on weekends, missed dance recitals or soccer games…
  • Cash-strapped existence – If your business hasn’t quite taken-off in the financial department, those closest to you might be enduring some dollars and cents consequences. No dinners out, fewer packages at Christmas, no vacations…
  • Guilt by association – If your business (heaven forbid) finds itself in a public relations crisis, you – and those most closely associated with you – will suffer the wrath of public opinion as well. Product or service safety issues, questionable accounting practices, verbal statements that alienated or degraded (intentionally or not) a person or group of people…

But it’s not all bad! Keep in mind that those around you also reap the good things that you sow:

  • Accessibility – Depending what type of business you run, you might be more available to your friends and family because you’re not tied to an 8 to 5 routine. Long lunches with old friends, mid-day book-reading gigs at your child’s elementary school, being there when your aging parents need assistance…
  • Respect – If you’ve made a positive name for yourself in the community, those closest to you will bask in the glow of your good reputation. Acceptance, good will, opportunities…
  • Work ethic – Your desire and drive to achieve, while striking a balance between your personal and professional life, will inspire others to do their best. Courage to go beyond their comfort zone, willingness to take intelligent risks, determination to work hard for results…

The most important thing to understand and embrace is that as a solopreneur, you have a responsibility to yourself – and to others. Although there are always going to be events and circumstances beyond your control, you are the primary master of your actions or apathy. Use your influence wisely.

How have those around you been affected by your initiative and actions (or lack of)?

More on responsibility and Small Business:

The Socially Responsible Entrepreneur – Are You One?

Entrepreneurship is a Form of Social Responsibility

Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How To Be a Caring Leader Without Getting Trampled

By Dawn Mentzer – Solopreneur & Freelance Writer
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How to care without getting trampled onWorking as a solopreneur and serving in leadership roles for community organizations are extremely gratifying, but in the process of putting myself out there, I occasionally run into resistance to the ideas and initiatives I propose. I know it “comes with the territory”, but I don’t enjoy being in the position of showing grace under fire. I take it personally. I know people don’t intend their skepticism to be a personal attack on me (at least I hope they don’t!), but I tend to interpret it that way regardless.

There’s plenty of commentary out there that says what “they” think doesn’t matter. That self-worth comes from within. That’s great, but not all of us can suppress the need to want to please all of the people all of the time – even if it is impossible.

Does that mean we make lousy entrepreneurs and leaders? I believe not. But we need to learn to cocoon our caring nature in a layer of thick skin.

Caring is critical when it comes to running your own business and leading others in any capacity. Your quality and commitment to clients and causes are directly linked to how much you care about what you do and the people you’re working with. It’s also important, however, to develop some immunity to criticism and adversity.

How do you do that? Here are a few pointers to help you through challenging circumstances that can drag your esteem down:

1. Take 10 – Seconds, minutes, hours…whatever you’re at liberty to take to acclimate to the resistance and prepare your response. During that time, put yourself in the naysayers’ shoes to determine where they’re coming from. Maybe they don’t understand the topic enough to see the value, maybe they’re afraid of change, or maybe they’re just that type of person who degrades any and all ideas if they didn’t think of them. Getting your bearings on their perspective can help you formulate your approach and response.

2. Focus on the positive more than the negative – Don’t let your detractors steal the spotlight and darken your spirits. Most likely you’ve got far more people in support of you than there are who are pooh-poohing everything you say and do. Keep that in perspective and your self-confidence won’t take a nose dive.

3. Be prepared – The best defense is a solid offense. Before you present an idea or initiative, give some thought to the questions, debates and negativity you might encounter – and plan how you will respond if any of them manifest themselves. Not only will you have more credibility with your audience, but you’ll also feel much more confident if and when you’re hit with tough questions and attitudes.

How do you manage keeping your self-esteem intact when meeting resistance from naysayers?

You might like these articles, too:

Tips on Dealing With Adversity

Think You’re Not Good Enough? Look Around. | Evolving Self-Confidence

Image: Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net