Imagine a job description which read:
Seeking a motivated and passionate individual with expertise in marketing, accounting, customer service, web design, operations, management, event planning, coaching and networking. Must also have a thorough understanding of canine and human behavior and be willing to lie awake at 3am pondering training plans.
Being a dog professional can feel like a lot. And just as we remind our THRIVE! members that they can’t always do all the things, it’s important to recognize that you can’t always be all the things either. Figuring out what you love and excel at and what you can ship elsewhere (and how) is a useful exercise for all business owners, whether you’re just starting out or have been at it for decades.
Here are some tips for getting control of your own job description:
Identify your pain points
Are there areas of your business that you avoid or find stressful? Do you have ideas that excite you but are contingent on things that make your head spin, like putting together a social media campaign or developing a new financial model? In order to tackle these barriers, you need to be able to identify them. Making a list of all the different areas of your work, including the systems that support them, can be a helpful starting point. Do you maintain your website or does someone else? How are you tracking expenses? And crucially, how much time per week are you devoting to these tasks? This is a great time to revisit your master schedule and ensure it’s capturing all those pieces that can easily fall by the wayside.
Make friends with technology
There’s a plethora of nifty systems out there when it comes to running your own business. If you struggle with juggling clients, online booking systems can save you from lots of back and forth trying to pinpoint dates and times (they’re also convenient for many clients). If dealing with accounts and taxes makes you despair, online accounting systems can help you develop simpler and more automated processes. For those who find social media exhausting, using a social media management tool allows you to schedule everything in advance and be more strategic about what you post. There’s lots of great project management tools out there as well, which can help you stay focused on all those exciting endeavors you’ve been dreaming up.
Essentially, if there’s a roadblock in your business you’ve identified, there’s likely to be an online solution for it out there. Often the biggest challenge is finding and selecting the one that works for you. Some people love to play with new technology, while others want to throw their laptop across the room just thinking about it. This is where dog pro communities come in handy! Ask colleagues for input and recommendations. Many of these systems also have free trial periods, so you can get a feel for the tool and how it works before committing.
Skill up or skill swap
While tools and systems can be incredibly helpful, sometimes the barrier is simply a knowledge, confidence or skill gap. We’ll say it again – running a business can be complex, and we have so much respect for all the dog pros we work with and the many plates they are spinning. The first thing we recommend is to acknowledge and congratulate yourself for being able to switch channels so dynamically across your work.
There are many ways to grow your business skills, from online courses and communities to seeking a mentor or business support group. Local councils sometimes offer community workshops for small business owners – these can be a great way to network and you may gain fresh ideas from those outside the dog world. If you have nailed a certain element of your business and like working with others, how about a skill swap? Maybe you have a friend who relishes doing their taxes (actually – can we have their number?) but would love to know how you stay on top of those emails. Sharing this information over a coffee or Zoom session can be an easy and cost effective way to up your business game.
Let it go…
Your time is exceptionally valuable. When you run your own business, and especially when starting out, it’s easy to feel like you have to tackle every part of it alone. For some people, this ‘do it all’ approach can quickly become overwhelming and isolating. It also means you can end up spending hours wrestling with a task or problem that may have been solved quickly with some external support. These are hours you could have spent doing (and being paid for) the thing you love – helping dogs and their humans.
While it can feel counterintuitive, outsourcing parts of your business saves you time and money in the long run. Common areas for this are things like accounting, logo and web design, SEO support, printing, marketing and legal compliance. Just like the multitude of online systems you can choose from, there are also plenty of options when it comes to people and organizations offering these services. Ask colleagues for recommendations, check out online reviews and make a list of questions and requirements in advance so you can articulate your needs. You may even find that working with local businesses has a positive knock on effect for your business. Dogs are loved by a diverse range of people, so maybe that local printer would be happy to have some of your postcards on display in their office, or your accountant turns out to be dog obsessed and starts recommending you to all their clients.
Have you had success with new technology, skill development or outsourcing? We’d love to hear about it!
Here’s another way to take some weight off your shoulders: Join the THRIVE! waitlist.