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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

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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Shawna Schuh

Are You a Seeker or a Conquerer?

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

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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?

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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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