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Shawna Schuh

What Running an Excavator Can Teach You About Business

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This spring, we started a project to put in additional roads around the barn and a huge parking lot to accommodate horse trailers coming to use the new trail course we’re creating in the woods. Highly exciting and fraught with risk.

If you have a pet business, you know all about excitement and risk.

On the one hand, you know expansion is smart, needed and potentially lucrative. The end goal, right?

On the other hand, there is a lot of outlay, many moving parts, and it’s uncertain how much or how fast the investment you’re making will pay off.

Somewhere the expression, “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room,” crossed my mind. Though funny at the time, that feeling of hanging on by my toes is a good description for what I  experiencied as the project swirled around me.

To make this project work, friends stepped in to lend their expertise. To do the work, we ordered a bulldozer and an excavator at great expense. One of my friends can operate both, and both were needed. But he couldn’t do both at once, so the excavator was sitting idle a majority of time that first day.

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The cost of this idle time was weighing heavily on me. You know that feeling?

So, I thought to myself, “How hard can it be to run this thing?”

I think that most lessons or experiences begin with a question like that. You might have thought something similar before you jumped into business, “How hard can it be?”

And then we find out.

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Running an excavator is not that difficult, after all, and so the point is made that nothing is impossible or difficult, at first. What I learned, however, is how difficult it is to do it well. And how frightening it is when you get yourself off-kilter or to close to the edge. I nearly tipped it over a handful of times and scared myself silly in the process. But I figured it out, same as you do.

What I learned from this adventure are a couple of things that will help me, and you, do business even better:

1

Take the risk. If you’re not growing, expanding and stretching, what are you doing? And if something really scares you, remember you are strong enough.

2

When you get on shaky ground, back up a bit. It’s unlikely you’ll tip over, but moving back a bit will gain you confidence and help you reposition for higher success.

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3

Even when you can do something, hiring an expert, or turning it over to an expert, is smart, especially if you want to get more done and in a better way. Necessity may be why you climb into the seat, but it doesn’t mean you should stay there. I was happy I took the controls and even happier to relinquish them to a better operator who magically appeared.

The project is still in process, but it’s turning out even better than imagined so far, and I have a feeling the risk, the stretch, the fear will not only be worth it, I will remember all of it fondly when I say, “I even ran that big excavator myself!”

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 2018 edition of PETS+.   

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Shawna Schuh

Assign Tasks with the End Goal in Mind

Ask in a way that will actually produce results.

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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 but 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

3 Leadership Aspects You Need Instead of a Title

True leaders don’t rely on what it says on their business cards.

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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 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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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.

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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.

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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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