Obedience training for business owners


As proud owners of a new chocolate Labrador retriever puppy, we’ve been humbled in our efforts—as many new pet owners are—to train our little ball of fur. But there’s one thing that’s become clear: how much we have to learn from him. Below are a few examples—I think you’ll find the lessons are universal, especially to business owners.

1) If you want them to come, you need to provide an incentive. Our puppy Miles quickly educated us that if he is to return safe and snug to his home upon doing his—er, job—he’ll need some incentive (preferably, in the form of some chicken jerky). Which is a valuable lesson, really: What brings your customer back to you time after time? The promise of excellent customer service? A good rate? A special discount for loyal customers? Let clients know before you send them away what special treatment they can expect when they come back.

2) For best results, be consistent. We had an interesting experience when training our puppy Miles. For weeks as he explored his environment and selected an errant object that wasn’t his, we’d say “leave it.” Then, one day I set a treat on the floor in front of him. “Leave it,” I said. Without having ever performed this specific task before, and without having ever been rewarded for it, Miles left the treat in front of him. “Okay,” I said, and he dove for the treat. Amazed, I realized that in all of the little messages we’d given him in the weeks before, he’d learned the meaning of the phrase, “leave it.” So, when the day came to actively execute the command, he understood its meaning. Sound familiar? Business owners: if you’re constantly communicating a primary objective to your audiences, when the day comes that they need your service, they’ll remember!

3) Be a pack leader. As much as I wish every moment with our puppy were filled with utter happiness, alas—it isn’t so. Items are chewed, floors are soiled, and cats are rattled. And while I could get all ruffled up and angry when our puppy misbehaves, I remember: he’s looking to me to lead him, providing a calm, assertive presence that guides him and makes him feel safe. Your clients, too—while not puppies, for goodness sake!—are also looking for guidance. And they’re expecting you to provide them with calm solutions, even when they may not be feeling so calm themselves.

As Miles gets older, the problems become fewer and the joy grows more. I wonder what he’ll teach me about design in the days to come…

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