Looking back to look forward

It’s easy to develop a reactive approach to business in the dog industry. When clients call, we often jump, particularly if there is a dog in need. When we’re worried about growth, we scramble to post  marketing messages on social media or design fliers. If we’ve recognized a gap in our own skills, it can be all too tempting to sign up to every webinar and online course out there related to specific topics, without time to implement what we learn.. If you feel exhausted from a year of jumping from one business need to the next, carving out time to reflect and plan for a calmer, more productive 2023 is an invaluable goal this month.

We find November ideal for exploring new directions, which is part of why we open our doors to new THRIVE! members during this time. Regardless of where you’re at in your business, setting meaningful goals and creating a schedule that supports them will find you stepping  into 2023 with purpose and confidence.


The power of retrospectives

Prior to setting goals, it’s important to look back and identify where you are on your dog business journey. A ‘retrospective’ provides an opportunity to delve into strengths and weaknesses and construct ways to improve in the future. The 4L approach, initially developed by Mary Gorman and Ellen Gottesdiener, is a simple and popular technique that may help you get started. It’s a great exercise for teams, and just as useful for those running their own ventures. You could even connect with a fellow colleague and do it together. The 4Ls ask you to explore what you loved, lacked, learned and longed for during the past year. These can be practical and emotional elements – both are key when designing a business and life you love.



Looking back on the past year, what made you jump out of bed and persevere? If there are clients or training areas you love working with, it pays to listen to this signal. Identifying the things that truly engage you can help steer you in more fulfilling directions. Did you implement a new system or process that made your life that much easier? Or were you able to carve out more time for yourself to do the things you love? If your business is in the embryo phase – you haven’t yet started or are at the very beginning – which ideas excited you most? It could be a concept or project that kept cropping up, or maybe just the thrill you felt when you booked your first client or training package.


Give yourself permission to unload your frustrations. Go on – list them out. What challenges did you face? Difficult client interactions, concerns about income, last minute cancellations, emotional cases, working on weekends, feeling isolated and alone – it can be cathartic to name the things that keep cropping up and causing us trouble. Once you have your list, try to put these into categories or themes. Does much of the lack revolve around scheduling, filling classes, or inspiring clients to commit to the training process? Identifying pain points will help shape future goals. And don’t despair – there are clever and elegant solutions to many of the common issues dog pros face, especially if you have the right support.


At dogbiz, we love learning. Gaining the skills, knowledge and experience to run a successful dog business takes time and it can be easy to forget how far you’ve come. What were your big ‘ah-ha’ moments over the past year? This learning may have been intentional, such as a course, class, or event you attended. Perhaps you found ways to improve client participation in your training plans, or how to use a newfangled, shiny online booking system (well done!). It may also have happened unintentionally – mistakes can be our biggest teachers. List any insights or discoveries that shifted your thinking or the way you work. 

Longed for

If you found yourself thinking ‘if only I had…’ or ‘if only I could…’, now is the time to write it down! This is the fun part – creating a wish list for your business and life that will allow you to thrive. It can be simple and operational, such as longing for a way to send out automatic reminders prior to training sessions or dog walks. Or it could be an emotional need, like wishing for more peers to connect and share ideas with. Maybe you just wished for more time, better chocolate, and hangs with your dog on the couch. The stronger and more frequent a ‘longed for’ is, the higher it goes on the list.


So…now what?

Once you’ve completed your retrospective, it’s time to take action! Identify an action you can take to do more of something on your loved list. Identify an action you can take to remove something from your lacked list. Look closely at your learned and longed for lists – these give you substance to shape your 2023 business goals. Happy planning!


Goal setting, as well as crafting a schedule that enables you to fulfill these goals, is how we begin every year in our group coaching program THRIVE! We’re delighted to be opening the doors to new members for one week only this November. Jump on the waitlist to secure your spot.