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Shawna Schuh

Teach Your Team to Become True Leaders



RECENTLY I WAS in a retail store, not pet-related but the lesson is the same. It was major chain crafts store. 

I was looking for something when I stumbled upon a display of notebooks that would be perfect for girlfriend gifts this holiday. I decided to buy the whole box.

After that find, I was in a buying mood. I ended up getting nearly another full box of gift items for clients and family.

As I wheeled my cart to the front and the girl checking me out began to unload my things, I asked her if we could just keep all the notebooks in the display box they were already sitting in. It was a simple white box, had a little tear in the corner, and the items fit, of course.

Here’s where things went sour and the lesson for your pet store.

Instead of simply looking at all my purchases and making a call right then to please me and make it easier for me, she said, “I’ll have to call my manager.”


Really? You can’t please a customer who is making a hefty purchase? She had in her power a way to make the experience of shopping there good, and instead she had to get permission.

Think about this for your pet store. Does your team have the attitude of “Let’s make this person and pet happy”? Or do they have the restriction that they have to ask someone — you perhaps — if a customer asks for anything out of the ordinary?

Now, before you dismiss this and think, “My team would have given her the cardboard box,” think how this situation must have come about. What decisions did someone make earlier that made it “policy” that they now needed to ask? 

This young woman was making a mistake with me because she had to call her manager (making me wait and treating me like asking for a box to carry my 40 items was over the top), but it gets better.

The manager said no.

Really? You can’t give a customer the broken box the notebooks came in?


And here’s the real kicker: She didn’t offer me a different box! This is a huge store, with hundreds of items, and instead of making it easy and good, I was going to haul out notebooks in lightweight plastic bags.

Lesson: Besides not doing this, here is what she could have done:

  • Agree with me that a box would be great.
  • Give me the box (the simplest and fastest decision).
  • Tell me she would find out about that box but regardless assure me that she would help me.
  • Offer to run back and get me another box. 

Instead, I was irritated. My mood shifted, and I didn’t want to purchase anything. I grumbled and I actually told the young woman that her manager was short-sighted and because of a box I would not be back.

In hindsight I wished I had not gotten irritated with this young woman who had no power to help me. I wish I hadn’t been so put off that I said I would not return, and yet I feel that way.

If by reading this you take some time and discuss this with your team, and come up with a clear goal as to how you want your customers, both — two- and four-legged — to feel, then the whole experience was worth it.


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




Webinar Replay: How to Keep That Holiday Momentum Rolling

Catch a replay of the recent PETS+ Live! webinar, in which host Candace D'Agnolo discusses how pet business owners can maintain their sales momentum after the holidays are finished. To see more PETS+ Live! webinars, visit

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Shawna Schuh

Ask Away: Assign Tasks with the End Goal in Mind

How to ask them to do the actual task.



There are many times when I hear from my clients these kinds of laments: “I should have said that differently.” Or: “Maybe I used the wrong words …”

When this happens, I’m delighted because that leader is becoming more aware that she has control over those words and how they may or may not land. However, sometimes it’s not the actual words; it’s the intent behind them that makes or breaks the situation.

Let’s dig deeper into this.

Here’s a standard miscommunication:

When you say, “Would you please do X task?” Your words, in your mind, may be clear and determined.

You are asking them actually to do the task, right?

That’s what you think.

In reality, it’s an inquiry with no clear intent of when it must be complete or even a determination of end result.

When I’m coaching clients, we take it down to the elements that will actually produce results.

First question: What do you want? And let’s go deeper than having the task done. Aren’t tasks the means to an end result? If you are spending a lot of time on “tasks,” you may have a checked-off to-do list and still not have the results you desire.

Ask yourself instead: “What will having this task done accomplish in regard to my big goal or highest priority?”

That question will shift your thinking to shift from “task doing” to “results producing.”

But what do you ask then if not, “Will you do X task?”

You have many choices. and all of them depend on the intent.

Intent one: Get a task completed. To do this, ask it as is with the addition of a timeframe: “Will you do X task by 3 p.m. today?” The specificity will help you both.

Intent two: Get a commitment to a result rather than a task. Say: “To further the goal of X, please provide me with a list of tasks and who is best to accomplish them inside our timeframe.”

This request will allow the other person to take leadership of the goal and either take on the tasks or find those abler to do so. Remember, of course, to include a timeframe.

Intent three: further action on your end goal. Ask a new question: “To make sure we reach X place, what do you think is the best plan or path to accomplish it?”

This will help them buy into the goal and give you new ideas.

As a leader, we usually know the goal and know the steps or actions to take. That doesn’t mean we should do those actions, nor that others know the goal.

When you shift your thinking like this, things in your world begin to improve. I see it all the time in my coaching clients. If you want the same results, the first step is to stop and think, “What is my intent?” and then the words will come easier.

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Shawna Schuh

Keep Score. Are You Missing a Big Piece of the Business Puzzle?

When you keep track or keep score, you have so much you can do with that information.



IS TRACKING YOUR PROGRESS a missing piece of your business puzzle?

Vince Lombardi once said: “If it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?

When you keep track or keep score, you have so much you can do with that information:

1. Know how far you’ve come. One of my business coaches pointed out how often we are focused on the future, and so we miss celebrating how far we’ve come. When you track your progress it’s easier to say, “Wow! We’ve come this far, let’s keep going!”

2. Know if you are winning and by how much. We wouldn’t watch basketball, baseball, or any of the ball sports if two teams were simply playing for fun. We want to know who is the stronger, better or luckier team that day, and we know there is an ending point. We stay to see who won, by how much and how each team acts afterwards. When you keep track of your results, you know where you are and when.


3. Tweak your actions to shift and improve your results. When you track things, patterns emerge. As a coach that’s one of my jobs: to note my clients’ patterns and tweak to improve results. When you track your progress and results, you are giving yourself the gift of seeing what is working and tweaking or eliminating what isn’t.

4. Celebrate along the way. This is something I missed when I was starting out, and it cost me some team members. I was too focused on the doing, going, getting-it-done attitude, and so I didn’t stop and recognize some of the milestones that would have given me and the team a break, a bigger reason to keep going and a way to create culture. Like dog training, when you recognize and praise the right actions, you get more of them.

5. Teach it down and out. When you track your efforts and results, you have the opportunity during the review of those efforts and results to teach, to demonstrate, or to ask for a lesson in how it worked and how to repeat it. “Show me how you got this result” is a powerful request for when it’s going well and when it isn’t.

If we don’t track what was done, it’s all a mystery. You’re planning or buying or reacting in a void. Are you willing to live in the dark this year?

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Shawna Schuh

Make Your Business Binge-Worthy

How to make your business like a TV series you can’t stop watching



HAVE YOU EVER BEEN hooked on a television series?

OK, I get that it’s a shameful thing to admit from a successful and seeking business person. Our conscious mind says, “I should be reading a business book, learning how to use social media better, or do the paperwork that’s long overdue.”

But somewhere in our mind, we are compelled to turn on one more episode of this series that is doing really nothing for us but taking up time. We keep doing it because it feels good.

Why we do this may just be the secret to getting people to be that sucked into our business story.

So let’s break this down. People follow:

Interesting characters: That would be you, and those you employ, and those you attract. In your favorite series, you begin to feel for the characters. I say “feel” because sometimes you hate a character too. The secret is this: The characters are interesting.

Are you being your most interesting self for your customers?

Tip: Those who are interesting are usually interested — asking questions, telling stories, being quick to laugh and having a sense of fun.

Ongoing challenges: Things to overcome that others can feel involved with. When your characters are tackling an obstacle (many times that they created themselves), we love to watch, weigh in and talk about it.

What are you sharing with your customers?

Tip: Share more of your goals and journey with your clients. Let them in on your big plans. The feeling of, “We’re in this together” is a sure way to keep them tuning into you.

Real connecting: Most great storylines show people deeply connected, sharing times, laughter and tears and sacrifices for each other. Day to day seems so much less dramatic than our shows, but it’s only that way if you think it is.

Do you consider your life like an epic novel?

Tip: Your life is like a novel. Focus on those big and small connecting moments and put as much energy as those you’re watching do.

Cliffhangers: Often, not knowing how it ends is the most tantalizing thing (and sometimes frustrating too!), but we keep watching and giving our time to something that makes us curious.
Businesses do this all the time with sneak previews and hints about new products. Are you doing this enough?

Tip: Give your customers something to look forward to. Either surprises or annual events that are fun and engaging. If you are already doing this, how can you use the techniques from successful series to add more mystery or intrigue?

Next time you watch your favorite show, note what you love most and ask yourself, how can I do this for my pet business?

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