3 Key Pandemic Lessons for Dog Businesses, and How To Use Them

Woman looking forward with her hand resting on her forehead. It’s been a rough time, full of challenge and uncertainty and fear. But as all rough times do, it’s shed new insight and learning, too. As we’ve worked at dogbiz to support dog professionals through the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve learned a number of lessons we believe are the key to both surviving this moment and emerging from it with strong, healthy businesses.

Here are 3 of the top lessons we’ve learned, and some tips for how to put them to use for yourself and your business…

1. We’re stronger together
In an industry known for isolation, it turns out relationships are everything. This lesson has struck us every time we’ve turned around.

We’ve seen it in the power of +R dog trainers coming together in the free Survive & Thrive group coaching program we ran. There, participants worked together as a tight, supportive, engaged community to virtually re-envision dog training services, nearly overnight—all while bolstering each other emotionally.

I’ve experienced it in informal coffee and cocktail hours I’ve been hosting weekly with Dog Walking Academy grads, where we’ve been getting to know each other on a personal level while talking about business strategy, sharing ideas for surviving the shutdown, shoring each other up through bad days, and simply enjoying good company—something we’d never thought to make time for before.

One of the most heart-warming presentations of this lesson has been how many dog walkers, daycare operators, and others have reported clients insisting on paying them through the pandemic despite not receiving services. Amazing, though really it shouldn’t be so surprising—it’s all about relationships.

Putting this lesson to use:
Don’t underestimate the power of relationship in your business now, and always. Build protected time into your schedule to nurture all the human sides of your dog business. Carve out time to thank clients and treat them to random acts of kindness, and time to do the same for referral sources. And find ways to connect and stay connected with fellow dog professionals, whether local or on a broader scale. Join positive online groups, invite local dog pros out for coffee once it’s safe to do so again, and work to focus on all that we have in common and ways we can support each other, rather than the small differences and fears that often push us apart.

2. Crisis brings opportunity & clarity
There has been and will continue to be much suffering due to this virus. It has also, as crises do, shaken the ground we stand on and opened up opportunities and ways of thinking that can have the potential to take us to new and better places. None of us can be glad for the pandemic, but we’d be foolish not to accept the good with the bad.

Many trainers in the Survive & Thrive group, and many of our business coaching clients, have pursued new avenues of revenue they’d never considered, like online dog training services. Many of you have shared with us that you’ve been forced to grow your teaching skills and been pleasantly surprised to see clients making better progress with their dogs. You’re beginning to envision and build a more flexible business model that can easily adapt to changing circumstances.

Another theme in the group, as well as during our Dog Walking Academy grad chats, has been the opportunity to slow down, reflect, and retool businesses—whether that’s a change in services, policies, or pricing, or a decision about which clients you really want to work with, or a realization that you’ve been operating too long without a sustainable work/life balance.

Putting this lesson to use:
Before things speed up again, set aside time to reflect on what you want your business to look like going forward. What changes do you want to take this opportunity to make? Think, too, about what matters to you most outside of work—health practices, hobbies, family and friends, your dogs, whatever it may be for you. Set aside regular time for your priorities to avoid sliding back to business-as-usual when things return to some semblance of normal.

3. Self care is critical
Speaking of work/life balance, so many of you have shared with us the positive space the virus has made for you to take better care of yourselves. You’ve told us about the online yoga classes you’ve started taking, the gardening and cooking you’re doing, the extra time you’ve enjoyed with your dogs. You’ve shared that you’re finally taking that online dog training course you’ve wanted to take for so long or learning a new skill you’d always dreamed about.

Alongside the fear and uncertainty and anxiety, so many of you have also experienced joy and improved health and a sense of accomplishment and hope. This is what comes of actively making space for life outside of work. We are so fortunate to do truly valuable work, but it cannot be all that we do. And to do our best work requires being our best selves—something we’d be wise to remember going forward.

Putting this lesson to use:
Create a master schedule that makes room for self-care, while also promoting easier work productivity. Remember that your ideal work/life balance—whatever that looks like for you—will not happen magically. It takes deliberate intention, planning and action.

Looking forward
As I said at the start, this has been a time of challenge, uncertainty, and fear. But it’s also been a time of growth and discovery in so many ways. Let’s promise ourselves and each other to take the lessons we’ve learned, individually and together as an industry, into whatever the new normal will be, and beyond.

We hope this finds you and all who you love safe and well.

Join us for THRIVE!
One lesson we’ve learned from the COVID crisis is the power of group coaching to help dog trainers achieve amazing things. We’re putting that lesson to use in the form of THRIVE!, an ongoing group coaching membership program inspired by our experience bringing +R dog trainers together during the pandemic. Learn all about it here.