This time last week I was sitting on a plane one my way home after presenting 6 sessions over 4 days at 2 annual conferences! Needless to say, it was heaps of fun, I met some amazing people and I was exhausted at the end of it.
It started in Melbourne at the Pets Industry Assoc of Australia Pet Expo and Annual Business conference. I was invited to give two sessions for their management stream members- Time management Magic (which ran for 58 minutes of my allotted 60!), and Your Ideal Client, which is the basis for all good marketing. While at PIAA I also participated in an open membership discussion around many topics concerning the industry at the moment, including visibility to general public, and of course the greyhound racing debate and the proposed changes to laws in Victoria concerning puppy breeding and sales.
PIAA has gone through what so many associations do, with some rough times in the past, but it has good leadership now, with many passionate and committed committee members who are dedicated to look to the bigger picture for the industry and welfare outcomes for the animals we care for. I wish I could have stayed longer, but that night I was on a plane to Sydney and the APDT annual conference.
While numbers were lower than hoped, 200 dedicated trainers put their own professional development and the welfare of the dogs they work with first and committed to this intensive 3 day event. I was asked to present 4 sessions over the three days, Your Ideal Client, Plan your Ideal Business, Social Marketing and Get Up & Start Up, plus I met heaps of cool people in the exhibition hall between sessions.
Robin Bennett was particularly supportive of the topics I was discussing, and I think we are on a similar wavelength when I encourage trainers to take their businesses and what they do seriously, before they can expect their clients to. Mik Moeller’s sessions on training and enrichment for shelter dogs were awesome, and it’s a great shame that more shelters did not make the effort to send their staff or management to this event to benefit from this knowledge and experience. It just made such sense- training the dogs to present well in the kennel will lead to faster adoptions and again, better welfare outcomes.
I was introduced to a local Perth lovely, Sonja Bevan and enjoyed her sessions on her training techniques, as well as meeting another Perth local who has created a fabulous product that will be of great benefit to any trainer or training centre- more on this soon I am sure!
It’s exciting to meet people who are passionate and excited for the future of their industry, but it is difficult to continue to see the pervasiveness of a money fearing “They’ll never pay me that much” attitude.
A friend of mine who is based in the states and helps dog trainers around the world grow their businesses, Maggie Christina, and I had a chat about this very recently.
My question is- if you don’t take your business seriously, they why should anyone else? Its not just about pricing, though that is a huge factor, but also with people who are not taking it seriously undercutting the rest of the industry and damaging the whole space as a result.
It’s about taking your BUSINESS seriously. In one of my sessions we walked through a simple one page business plan, with numbers. I actually had a minor freak out on stage as we were doing it because I could see smoke streaming from people’s ears. I guarantee you that 90% of that room had NEVER looked at their business numbers in that way before.
But why had they not? The math I gave them was simple, they just needed their phone. But for so many, numbers are very, very scary.
And it is much easier just to hide your head in the sand.
I know. I did it too. In the past I’d preferred to not know some months what my bills are, when that big invoice comes in along with all the little ones; I used to ignore my numbers too. But when I had a business that was failing, and getting me deeper and deeper into debt, it wasn’t ignoring the numbers that turned it around. It was focusing on nothing but the numbers.
Where’s the profit margin?
How many do I need to sell to meet my needs?
How many leads does that equate to?
What’s my conversion rate?
Now, how do I actually meet those targets?
To the guys who came along with me last week and played with your numbers, firstly, well done to you for playing full out and giving it a red hot go. Especially if it terrified you.
If you found out that looking at what you charge now you need to make way too many sales each week than is physically possible (we need to sleep at some stage too)- then play. Play with those numbers. What can you change? What can you tweak? What can you deliver differently to help you reach your Ideal Business?
Number can be scary, but they can also be fun. They never lie. They never judge. They hold no emotion. They are the most powerful facet of taking your business, your service, your clients and customers and what you DO seriously.
If you don’t understand your numbers, if you are still handing your receipts to you accountant in a shoe box, please, ask for help. Find a good bookkeeper to guide you, take a short course, ask a coach or a mentor to guide you.
Yes, your business is here to service your clients, but it has to serve you too. If you were employed by someone, would you be happy to never receive your payslip, or to not know what you’re being paid each week? Of course not.
Why do we accept that from our own businesses?
For me, the key differences I see time and time again in business leaders around me is that they know their numbers and they prioritise their own professional and personal development. They ask for help when they need it.
Looking back at last week, I was privileged to spend time with those in the pet industry who were wanting to learn more, so they can be more, help more and do more, and it left me excited for the future of all pets in Australia. The quality of both events was very high, in terms of education and speakers, as well as logistics and organisation. Personally, I would like to see more communication between the various associations and organisations, across the different sectors. Why were these two conferences held the same weekend? There was a massive opportunity for a wide range of pet professionals and staff to learn from the APDT event and to me it’s a shame that was not more widely promoted outside the +R community.
It’s the same in the equine sector though- not enough sense of community and inclusiveness. Change comes through education. If you believe in what you do, don’t keep it to yourself, shout it from the rooftops for all the hear. I hope we see that change in the near future.
(Top image with thanks to Jude Tuttleby and APDT, all others owned by the author)