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Shawna Schuh

Learn the Art of Leadership



With the right knowledge and technique it’s possible to be both a leader and a friend.

Pets are usually a deep love, or you wouldn’t have gone into the pet business. This is a driving force behind what you do. I love that about you.

What is also apparent is how often leaders in the pet space get tripped up between the love and relationship they have with their pets and how they relate to their team and vendors.

Loving the people you work with is good, letting them into your inner thoughts, foibles and intimacies is not. As a leader of your pack, you must make the hard calls. You must determine what is best for your business.

I remember when I was starting out in business, a coach I hired asked me, “Do you want to be liked or do you want to be a leader?” My reply was, “Can’t I be both?” 

His reply: “If you want to be liked more than you want to lead, you will never lead.”

I have thought about this a lot over the years and having had the great honor of leading associations, teams, groups and animals, I now understand the wisdom of his question and the naïveté in my reply. 


If you want to excel as a leader, then that is what you must be first. Whether you picked it, or it was thrust upon you, (and having a pet business means you are a leader) learning a few leadership skills is not only smart, it’s imperative to your continued success. 

Following is an acronym I created to help you walk that line between leader and friend. I like that it spells out the word: ART — because being an exceptional leader is an art! One you can display and grow in the rest of your career and life.

You’ll see I’ve used two words in each letter, one first for your leadership, and the second for you to bring your own brand of love forward. You can be both a leader and a friend if you know and practice the order, because good leaders are fair, reasonable and people do like and admire them. Usually because they know and display leadership first.

A = Authority & Affection 

This is best described in how we work with our dogs. You remember teaching your dog to sit, right? You only ask once with authority. If they don’t do it, you help them do it. Then you show them affection and praise. 

Let’s review that again. You ask for something once. Expecting that it will be done on your command, then you show affection and praise. 

If you’re having trouble with people doing what you ask in a timely manner, or not following through, it could be as simple as going back to this basic premise. Ask with authority and expectation. This is leadership. 


R = Respect & Responsibility

Showing respect is how you earn respect. Does this mean you hold yourself to a higher standard? Yes, it does. 

You are responsible for the success of your pet business. However you are also responsible for letting your team and vendors know what is expected of them. How well you communicate your expectations falls on you. You communicate with respect, and expect them to be responsible for those expectations. 

T = Trust & Time

Someone recently asked me how long it took to get my horse to get up onto a raised platform only 3 feet across. My answer was that it wasn’t about practice, it was about the trust we have that allowed a 1,000-pound animal to do as I asked. It’s the same for you as a leader.

When people trust that you will do what is right, that you won’t put them in peril, that you have their best interest in mind when making decisions, especially though ones, you will experience better results. 

This takes time. Time to be together, time to move through issues, time to be tested and prove you have integrity and time for you to learn the strengths and weaknesses of those you have selected to be around you.

Leadership is an ART, so is friendship. For your pet business, knowing which is first may be the turning point for you to have even greater success.


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

This article originally appeared in the July-August 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




Digital Marketing Is Great, but It Can’t Solve All Your Problems

You’ve probably been hearing experts talk about digital marketing as if it would be a panacea for pet-business owners, says marketing specialist Jim Ackerman. But for most owners, it hasn’t worked out that way. In this video, Ackerman explains why digital advertising should be just one arrow in your marketing quiver.

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Shawna Schuh

Are You a Seeker or a Conquerer?

The seeker finds success daily; the conquerer attains it only at the top.



SUCCESS CAN MEAN DIFFERENT things to different people, although the dictionary definition of success is: The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

For me, it’s shifted from a destination to the journey — or what I like to call an adventure — because for me, life, love, pets and relationships are all adventures, usually to undiscovered places or experiences.

As we travel forward in life, we can hold success out in front of us like a carrot for a horse, or we can experience the pleasant feeling of being successful every time we take an action step.

So when you have the aim to learn something, and you do … success!

When you set out to make a customer smile, and you do … success!

When a new concept is presented, and you learn it, use it and excel in it … success, even though the process, the adventure may not be not complete.

When we think and feel successful, we do the actions that produce the results we seek. We also skip the painful process of thinking: “When I reach X, I’ll be successful,” or, “After I have Y, I’ll feel successful.”

We can live more fully, more engaged, energized and creative because every action is a success when we move forward with the right intention.

Let me explain it further with two mountain-climbing analogies:

In one case, the climber is the Seeker: Every prep, every step, every hurdle and every experience is a success getting to the top, and more important, returning from the top of the mountain.

In another case, the Conquerer: Success is only at the top. This permits less focus on getting back down gracefully or safely. So success is measured only by being on top, by taking control and forcing it.

Stop and ask yourself whether you relate more to the Seeker or the Conquerer. I’m not going to judge you. However, in my work with wonderful, successful professionals, I do know the happiest ones are those who seek and experience that happy jolt of success every step, every hurdle and every sale they take or make each day.

How do you become a better Seeker?

1. Set up all the action steps to take you where you want to go.
2. Track those steps so you know you accomplished them.
3. Note your progress and celebrate how far you’ve come.
4. Bask in the fact you are moving in the right direction.
5. Embrace the knowledge that there is no top/end to attain.
6. Revel in being a Seeker because those who seek, find!

This feeling of success is truly wonderful. Being a Seeker reminds me that I am creating the life I live, and if I can do it, so can you.

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Shawna Schuh

What You Believe About Your Customers Influences How You Treat Them

Are buyers liars?



THE OTHER DAY I caught someone in a lie. It was a little lie, a white lie they call it.

Here’s the definition of a white lie from the Urban Dictionary: “A minor, polite or harmless lie. A white lie can be excused because it doesn’t cause great harm.”

And this is where the slippery slope begins!

What do you believe about lying? Is it totally wrong? Or are little white lies OK since they don’t cause great harm? And what is harm, anyway?

How do you feel about your customers and clients telling you little white lies? Like: “I’m not really looking.” Really? They called or came in, right? Apparently they are at least looking …

Or what about us? If we leave out something that affects someone’s decision, is that harmless?

An example would be a little white lie that there is only a limited number of something, when in reality there are plenty more.

There is a belief that people are not honest when they deal with others, that most people are focused on themselves, on getting the best deal for their needs.

Though there is truth mixed in with most things, today I want you to really think about what you believe about your clients and customers.

The reason is, if we believe buyers are liars, then that will affect how we treat them. With suspicion, with uncertainty and with our guard up.

Shakespeare once wrote, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

And so it is with people.

What if we chose to believe, “People are neither good or bad, but thinking makes it so”?

What if we decided, right this minute, that:

  • All my customers are special.
  • All my clients want attention and guidance, and I know how to deliver it.
  • All of those who inquire about my business and services are looking for what I offer.
  • People are generally good.
  • Pets are the best thing about life (I know you believe this already!).

The bottom line really is: What do you believe about your customers? Answering that truthfully and determining that you will, from this point on, believe only the best will made a profound difference in your results.

If you already have this positive belief, ask yourself whether you are sharing it enough with your team and community. If not, there’s your action plan for this month!

I believe in you!

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Shawna Schuh

3 Leadership Aspects You Need Instead of a Title

Some people naturally step forward to lend a hand and take responsibility.



SOME PEOPLE TAKE LEADERSHIP, while others are given the title. Think about that in your pet business.

A company hired me to work with its leaders, from the founder — who was a brilliant man who didn’t like titles since he expected everyone to feel ownership — to all the other C-suite leaders who also didn’t have titles.

I adored working with this team. They were innovative, eager to learn and grow, and we saw huge leaps in productivity and profit.

Because the top leader was carrying much of the burden, they hired someone inside their industry to join the team and take some of the responsibilities off his plate. You may have done something similar or said to yourself, “If I could only clone myself, things would be easier!”

The new hire, a man in his middle years of work experience, got a bit sideways with the top guy when he refused him a title. “What am I then?” he asked. To which the founder said, “Worry less about what title you have, and let’s get things done.”

This man — let’s call him Kurt — would not let this go. When we coached, he wanted to spend time second-guessing the founder. When he spoke to others,s he would lament, “If I had more power, I would get more done.” He was missing the entire point that a title doesn’t give someone power. Leadership does.

Several months later, Kurt is no longer on that team. It was painful for everyone since he was liked and respected, but he proved that he couldn’t actually lead (or so he thought) without a title.

Which brings me back to my point: Is leadership given or taken?

Think through this for a moment.

With a title comes what? More responsibility, more power, more money? Or is it your responsibility to lead regardless of those things?

You, like me, have probably been in some sort of group that was given a task, volunteering perhaps or in an association, and there are people who naturally step forward to lend a hand, take responsibility, to encourage and lead, though they were never given that job nor that title.

The others naturally follow, or if the person is a good leader, he works things through together, with everyone sharing and taking turns leading.

You, like me, have no doubt also been in a similar situation where the actual leader was not leading, not encouraging and where things ground to a standstill or much time was wasted.

If you are like me, you might have gently stepped in to sort it out and lend a hand, since that’s what leaders do. Everyone, everywhere, can be a leader. And you don’t need a title to do it.

What you need instead of a title:

  • Ability to see the goal or end result. (You know what needs to be done.)
  • Courage to encourage some type of collaboration. (You can join all the talent together.)
  • Skill in asking questions that bring people forth and safety for them to provide answers.

There are more traits great leaders have, but for today, what if you looked at your pet business and determined whether you have leaders because you’re providing a safe environment or title holders who are working simply because they were placed in that position? Is it time to hire more leaders?

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