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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

Embrace Manure Flinging: It Comes with Animals … and Leading a Business

What if all the tasks you do are embedded with love?

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I CLEAN TWO HORSE stalls nearly every day. Every day I fling manure into a wheelbarrow knowing full well that not more than 24 hours later I will be repeating this task.

It doesn’t bother me. Matter of fact, I’ve come to love this time I take, usually in the morning, to serve animals that can not serve themselves in this task.

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I mention it here because as leaders, there are certain consistent tasks that we can either embrace or rally against.

People sometimes ask me, usually when I’m dressed up, looking and acting highly professional and engaged in complex conversation, “Do you clean your own stalls?” Or, and pet people can so relate to this, “Doesn’t it bother you that you have to feed, care for, pay attention to your pet every day?”

This is usually a person who had decided not to have animals. Who uses the excuse that they travel too much, or that they don’t want to go through the heartbreak when a beloved pet dies, or even, that it would be “unfair” to the animal since they really don’t have time.

I am in agreement that this person is smart not to have a pet. Each person has to make their own choices, and yet they are the ones who seem to have an opinion about the time, money or energy I spend on my lifestyle and four-legged charges.

Why do I mention any of this? Which camp are you in? And how do you think about the consistent and repeating tasks that being a leader assumes?

Here are a few ideas to mull over, maybe while you’re doing whatever your flinging manure task is?

1. What’s our big “why?” Simon Sennick in a TED talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” explains the golden circle that encompasses the What, the How and — the deepest — the Why. It’s worth a watch (petsplusmag.com/2203). I challenge you to determine why you picked this life, this career, these tasks.

2. Remember that it’s your choice. When we have repetitive tasks, like cleaning horse stalls, doing your books, writing your goals, it’s easy to slip into a rut that sometimes feels like a deep ditch, and since there’s no finish line, can become tedious. Or not.

3. Color it with love. Though I cannot say I love manure, I do love flinging it into the wheelbarrow. I consider it an act of love. Love for my horses, love for my lifestyle, love for the exercise it gains me and deep love for a job well done and finished.

What if all the tasks you do are embedded with love? What if you played a game with your repetitive tasks to find ways to expedite them? Shift them into a test? What if you looked at every task as an opportunity to tweak, improve and excel?

Example: I have set up my barn in ways to do things with more ease, more fun, and that allow me to use my flinging time to improve myself. People ask how I listen to so many books. Manure-flinging rules!

Check in with yourself about those tasks you think are mundane or repetitive — maybe even gross. I mean, manure doesn’t have many redeeming qualities, but I have come to appreciate it for what it does for me.

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Shawna Schuh

True Leaders Learn the Skills of Telling, Selling and Asking

Beware the overshare.

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IN AN INTERVIEW FOR a new team member, we sat down and began some preliminary chit-chat.

Admittedly, I am a curious sort; I ask more questions than most. It’s my job, after all, as a leadership coach, so when I began by asking, “Tell me a little about yourself.” I did not expect to hear what I did: The interviewee went on to share and to overshare. We found out about her marriage history, abuse, blended families, a home lost by the recession and what was wrong with her last employer.

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She was talking too much for us to ask additional questions.

According to her resume, she had the skills we needed, but we decided we wouldn’t hire her because of her oversharing habit.

Oversharing lost her the job. Over-sharing can lose you customers, too.

What is a leader to do? Well, first, be sure you aren’t the one who overshares.

My coaching clients learn early that most leaders do three things often.

1. They tell. Usually, leaders are telling their team how to do things, what the vision is, how to handle customers. Leaders tell and tell and tell. They do this because they are the ones in the know. They are making the decisions, and to be good communicators, they tell their teams.

2. They sell. This is one most leaders don’t realize they are doing, but they do it all the time. After all, you want your team bought into your vision, and you want people to get excited. Leaders are the most knowledgeable about the product or business, and most started by selling so they sell.

When you are telling and selling, sometimes you forget and overshare. Leaders get zealous about things and sometimes that leads to oversharing.
What can you do to stop yourself from the overshare? What would have helped the interviewee land the job?

3. They ask. Leaders learn to be expert askers. When you ask questions, many wonderful things happen: The people you ask questions feel valued — like their opinion matters. You learn something. And you allow others to talk, which means you aren’t talking or oversharing.

To become an expert asker, all you need do is, of course, ask questions. This is a simple concept like dieting, and, like dieting, usually not easy.

Here are two questions most any leader or anyone will benefit from asking:

What is it you want?

This question helps the other person define their goals. For customers, it helps you help them. Note: Be prepared for some silence, a lot of people really don’t know what they want. If they are quiet, simply smile and ask them something else like, “What makes you happiest?”

What can I do for you?

This question gets to the core of need. It also shows them that you are focused on them. That’s the beauty of questions: They are outward focused, and when you are outward focused, it helps you be the kind of leader, teammate, partner, a parent that others want to be around.

If nothing else, please think before you overshare!

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Shawna Schuh

3 Words to Project Calm and Give Yourself Time to Think

When you find life, people, pets — anything — interesting, you’ll find your life more interesting…

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AS A LEADER, what is your reaction to upsets, incidents, challenges and changes?

I like to think I keep a cool head and open mind, and I hope I do. However, recently when I was working with a client, I noticed something she does that is effective and helps her move through things in not only a more professional way, but in a way that allows deeper learning.

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Her way is to look at everything as if it’s a puzzle or something to figure out, dissect and alter. This is a new way of thinking and being that will help you.

My client, when confronted with something new, or an issue, or even a correction, will pause for a moment, then comment, “Isn’t that interesting …,” as she allows her mind to work.

This does several things you can use too.

First, it shifts the energy from shock, dismay or any reaction that is negative, to one of curiosity and inquiry. The mere idea that anything new or presented is “interesting” makes it so.

Many people react with “That’s terrible!” or “Oh no!” or pure disbelief. This reaction, though common, puts the energy in a downward spiral. It becomes something to fix rather than something to learn from.

When you say to yourself or out loud, “Isn’t that interesting ….” You look at it differently, and you feel differently about it. The best part is, you begin to explore ways to work through things or seek the lessons in what has happened.

Making everything that is said or done, “interesting” shifts anyone else involved away from fear or turns excuses into calm and curiosity.

If in another’s mind they can think, “OK, not angry, not upset, just ‘interested,’” think how much easier it will be to work things through.

You can also use “interesting” to pave the way for new creative thinking.

Phrases that help creativity:

  • “What’s interesting about this is …”
  • “The interesting thing it seems is …”
  • “What do you think is interesting about this?”

When you find life, people, pets — anything — interesting, you’ll find your life more interesting, and you will come up with more creative — and yes, interesting — solutions. And a leader who uses “Isn’t that interesting …” in the face of a challenge or bad news has an immediate advantage by allowing others to relax, and by giving you time to think and find creative solutions.

Isn’t that interesting?

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