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Shawna Schuh

Leadership Lessons From a 100-Mile Horse Trek

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Every year the Appaloosa Horse Club of America puts on a 100-mile horse trek. I just completed the first leg and it was my first time. What an adventure! And what a lesson in leadership!

When all the riders got on their horses on day one, there was much excitement, fear, nervousness and anxiety. After all, we were going to ride 20 miles that day, through uncharted country.

Some people nervously got up and got on. Their horse prancing and circling, upsetting those around them and getting agitated as we waited for the start.

Some were completely unprepared for the journey, and it showed. Their equipment was loose or falling off, their horses were out of shape and ungroomed.

Some, regardless of who was around them had a quiet confidence and seemed to exude an energy of calmness that helped their mount and others relax.

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And I thought, “That’s who I want to be. That calm, collected and prepared leader.” So I followed them, and my ride was outstanding. Not only that day, but all five days of this amazing adventure. 

“Before going into any situation, meeting, call, buying trip, whatever, take a moment and ask: Who do I want to be in this?”

The others? I think they had the ride they set themselves up for, and here is the secret I’m sharing with you. 

If only they had asked themselves prior to going: Who do I want to be in this situation? 

You can do this for your pet business when dealing with customers — especially unhappy ones — prior to meetings with suppliers and before any live event or expo. 

The answer you come up with will determine your outcome because you have control of who you will be, regardless of how others choose to be or react.

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This is how you create an exceptional experience. Before going into any situation, meeting, call, buying trip, whatever, take a moment and ask: Who do I want to be in this?

If you want success, you’ll lead yourself in this way more and more, others will gravitate to you in abundance, and the ride we call business will be exceptional every time.

Shawna Schuh  is a certified speaking professional, an executive coach, master neuro linguistic programming practitioner and president of Women in the Pet Industry Network. Email her at shawna@womeninthepetindustry.com.


This article originally appeared in the September-October 2017 edition of PETS+.

Shawna Schuh is a certified speaking professional, an executive coach, master neuro linguistic program- ming practitioner and president of Women in the Pet Industry Network. Email her at shawna@womeninthepetindustry.com.

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Shawna Schuh

 Pushing the Pig: Try It, and You’ll See Why It Doesn’t Work

Stop pushing…

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I’M THE KEEPER of a pig, the size of which is an interesting subject. Herbert the Hogster is a mini pig. And now that he is in his fifth year of life, though I have no scale to weigh him on, nor could I lift him to gauge it that way, it’s looking like he could weigh in at 150 pounds or more.

I share this with you because Herbert has taught me an important leadership lesson recently. He was in the house uninvited. Sometimes I invite him into my office, which has a door to the outside and stone floors for easy cleanup of dirty hooves, but he snuck through the barrier and into the main part of the house and was heading in the direction of the dog food when I spied him.

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Immediately, I got behind him to push him back through the door and into the outside. He was having none of it. He planted his little hooves, and the more I pushed him, the more he grunted and squealed his displeasure.

That’s when I realized you can’t push a pig. Especially one that outweighs you.

This situation is like others we encounter where we want one result, and it seems nearly impossible to attain it by what we’re doing. Think about how you have sales goals — and because of those sales goals you do some pushing. And if you are feeling behind or overwhelmed, you might be pushing from behind. And nothing is happening.

Kinda like pushing a pig. No matter how hard you push, no matter how much you want to move forward, no matter how “nice” you are, that pig is not budging a bit.

So I stopped pushing.

I would like to say that I made this decision with a clear head and without using any off-colored words, but let’s suffice it to say after exhausting my strength and patience, I decided to take a different approach.

Do you quit pushing when the results are not there? Or do you keep at it because it’s the easiest thing to do or the thing we know? And do you notice that the harder you push the less you accomplish? This is true for so many things.

For me, it was my immediate reaction and that’s the real lesson. If I had stopped for a moment and thought about it, I had several other options that I could have done, including the one I did next: I went and got some pig food and put it in a pan so when I shook it, the sound made the most alluring and effective noise that Herbert wanted to follow. Which he did, right outside!

Next time before I — or you — push the pig, remember this lesson:

  • Think before reacting.
  • Determine the best plan or plans.
  • Lure rather the pressure.

Anytime things come to a standstill in your business, stop pushing the pig and do something else.

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Shawna Schuh

4 Steps to Pair with the Right Mentor

Tips for gaining the most from the experience.

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WHEN I WAS STARTING out in business, I sought both coaching and mentorship. When I paid for coaching, I gained value. When I sought mentorship, it usually fell flat, until I joined a structured program that had mentees and mentors go through an interview process. I happened to score a wonderful mentor, however another woman who went through the program found little value in her experience.
So to help you find a mentorship and to gain the most from it, here are the steps.

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1. Have the right goal. The more you know and communicate what you want from a mentor, or what you want in seeking mentorship, the better. You don’t get results without stating what you want them to be.

2. Determine a time frame. When each of you knows what you are agreeing to, you can use your time more effectively. From the length of the mentorship to when and where and for how long you will meet. Treat this like any important appointment and respect each other’s time.

3. Be prepared. When someone has asked me to mentor or wants to learn from me, I usually ask them to come up with the top questions they want to ask. This throws people off, which is surprising. If you are going to use leaders’ time, then use it well. Asking them to tell you their story is a waste of their time. Get to what you want. If you do not know what you want, then you are not ready for a mentor yet.

4. Set clear expectations. Mentors are not your teachers, your parents nor your accountability police. They are guides, so seek their wisdom rather than their secrets or systems. If they choose to provide you with those things, it’s wonderful; however, ask questions that will help you move forward rather than expecting the mentor to give you a plan. You can even ask them how they would most like to provide guidance, and then you can adjust from there.

Most important of all, a mentor is someone who is willing to give you their most important asset: their time. And so the most important thing to remember is to use their time well, which in turn will be an excellent use of your time, too.

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Shawna Schuh

To Get to the Bottom of a Complaint, Pause, Smile and Ask

When a customer lies, it may not be for the reasons you think.

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THE RESTAURANT IS a favorite of mine. The food is good, and it’s fun and kinda funky. When we sat down to meet for this first date, I had no expectations. The conversation was fast and fun, and so we decided to order dinner. He ordered a burger and fries, me a salad.

When the food came, the female server set it down with a flourish, and it looked great. I barely had a moment to admire my salad when the man sitting opposite me said, “The fries are cold.”

The server was momentarily stunned but quickly recovered and said, “I’ll bring you new ones.” And she hightailed it out of there to have a word with the kitchen.

There was a pause, so I said, “I’m so sorry you got a bad order, this place is usually great.” Because, of course, I’m feeling bad for suggesting a place that, it turns out, serves cold food. What does that say about my taste and judgment?

Then he said, “No worries, the fries aren’t really cold. There’s just not enough, so now they’ll bring more.”

I blinked in stunned silence and then gathering my wits about me asked, “Do you do this often?” To which he said, “Only when I think I’ve been shorted on something.”

Think about this for a moment. Where do you land on the right or wrong of this exchange?

As a consumer, you might agree that if you feel shorted in service, or product, or value, it’s within your rights to complain or ask … but to lie?

As a business owner, you may feel outraged and taken advantage of by a customer who is clearly misleading you or your team for additional gain.

Here’s my take from a leadership standpoint:

  • Pause to take a breath. This can allow you to get emotions in check.
  • Smile. This may be forced — after all, they are bringing up a complaint.
  • Ask a question. This is the best thing however only if it’s a question that still makes the customer feel in control (rather than wrong), and it clarifies the real issue.

The example in this instance may have been that the server could have paused, smiled and asked, “Do you want me to replace them?”

Since the answer is most likely yes, then take the whole meal away.

If you get pushback — “It’s OK, just bring me more fries” — this is when you know the real intent behind the comment, and you can say, “If the fries (or whatever the complaint is) are not to your liking, we must check your whole meal so you are completely satisfied.”

If you have a pet business, you’re not selling fries, of course. However, you do have some customers who are hard to satisfy, and they can surprise you or take advantage of you, all the while feeling justified in doing so. Luckily, the same techniques will work: Pause, smile, ask a question.

Think about and discuss with your team the kinds of questions that are able to get to the bottom of the issue (or customer intent) without making the customer feel wrong.

For me, I learned several things that evening, the most important being to put myself in the position of both the customer and the business owner. If all of us did that more, maybe the experience for everyone would be better.

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