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Article Contributed by Stephen Farnham

It’s not just by chance that dogs have earned the nickname “Man’s Best Friend”.  We have bred them to be our companions, helpers, and servants for millennia.  If you are lucky enough to own one, at times you probably wish that many of the traits we see in them were more prevalent in the people that we interact with.  Instead of just watching dogs and marveling at what well adapted creatures they are, let us take some of what makes them so special and apply it to running a successful business.  There are five traits that dogs exhibit that would also make us all more successful entrepreneurs.

Have a short memory

If you own a dog, there is no doubt that on at least one occasion you’ve returned home to find a horrible mess, something chewed to bits, and a dog with a very guilty look on its face.  The dog will often hang its head, drop its tail between its legs, and cower away from you as you tell it what a naughty dog it’s been.  Then by the time you take your shoes and jacket off, their tail is wagging and they are giving you that “Is it time to play now?” look.  This trait of having a short memory where a negative act is concerned allows the dog to move on quickly to whatever comes next without letting it affect their drive or determination.   You can use this same mindset when dealing with rejection or failure.  Say for instance that there is a coworker you need to collaborate with on a project, and they somehow have failed or not held up their end.  The next time the two of you need to work together, do not presume the same results, but rather approach them with a fresh, positive attitude, implying that you are confident things will go better the second time.  Do not let past failures get in the way of future success.

Be eager to meet strangers

More often than not, when someone is walking towards you with a dog, the dog is eager to say hello, to get that pat on the head or just hear a kind word.  Too often in the hustle and bustle of the world we live in, we feel we don’t have the time for a stranger who might want a word with us.  Put those feelings aside for a second and remind yourself that everyone in our lives was a stranger when we first met them.  Maybe they have interesting ideas about your work, or know some people who would be a great asset to your network.  Greet strangers with enthusiasm and great things are possible!

Address every threat

A relaxing evening at my house is often interrupted by the baying of my coonhound named Jack.  He’s a laid back fellow who is pretty happy snoozing on the floor or his bed while I’m doing just about anything.  Sometimes though he’ll hear or smell something outside, and when he does he lets everyone know it.  He darts from window to window, baying and growling, looking for the potential intruder and making sure they move quietly on their way.  I’m quite convinced that most of the time he’s making much ado about nothing, but Jack is diligent and defensive.  In our professional lives we are presented with threats probably every day.   Some of them likely go unaddressed or even undetected, but maybe we should be more like Jack.  When a threat arises, ask yourself “What’s the worst-case-scenario for this situation?”  With every threat we are presented with, the worst-case-scenario is that something terrible will happen and we did nothing about it.  If we assess and attack every business threat that comes our way, success is inevitable!

Be a calm, assertive pack leader

You have probably worked with or for someone who might be referred to as a “hot head”.  They are the ones who might bury their face in their hands or bang their fists on their desk when given some bad news.  If a subordinate does something wrong, they are the one who screams and yells.  Nobody wants to work with that person, much less for them.  There is no emotion in a dog’s world.  Dogs are social animals who work in packs.  The pack leader leads with a calm and assertive energy.  Dog expert Cesar Milan (aka “The Dog Whisperer”) maintains that dogs look for that same sort of leadership from us.  When it comes to leading a dog, an emotional reaction from us is seen by them as a sign of weakness.  Apply this same principal to the workplace.  Set emotions aside and show your team that you are a calm and assertive leader.  This will give them confidence that you are a competent leader, and will help you in earning their respect.

When the pack wins, you win

Dogs are social carnivores.  This means they are meat-eaters who hunt in packs.  On their own, a dog will have a tough time surviving.  They need each other in order to survive, and your business success is no different.  We all know that anyone who is successful has a team behind them.  Yes, we are all the holders of our own destiny, but behind each of us there is a team, a network, and a support system.  It is important to nurture all of these relationships.  Surround yourself with successful people.  Do everything you can to be one of the stars in their network too!  Successful people feed off each other.  Each positive interaction brings exceptional results down the road.  Feed the pack and watch everyone thrive!

About the Author

Stephen Farnham MBA, is President of Choice One Consulting, a firm providing bookkeeping, consulting, financial analysis, and social media marketing to small businesses.  Choice One Consulting can be found on their website, Facebook, and LinkedIn.



2 Responses to Lead the Pack: What Dogs Can Teach Us About Running a Business

Colleen Carroll

October 20th, 2012 at 11:15 pm

Great article, Steve. I love the analogy between dogs and business. It helps with perspective, among other things. I especially appreciate the part about being eager to meeting “strangers”, as lately I have been networking more and am surprised at how much I like it. I look forward to reading more from you in the future.

Brooke Ballard

October 23rd, 2012 at 2:54 am

Great read, Steve! As a dog owner, I can completely relate. These are all wonderful tips, but somehow, with the dog analogy, I feel I’ll remember them more easily. Looking forward to more from you …

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