10 things that entrepreneurs can learn from dogs

Some months back I wrote a post about how, as entrepreneurs, we have much to learn from our kids. Lots of you chimed in about your own experiences and about how much you, too, have learned about business from children. Well, as I was pondering what to write about this week, our family dog, Epee´ wandered over to lick my hand and it occurred to me that her small gesture of affection and loyalty was something that I could learn from. I spent the next hour or two watching her as she went about the business of being a pet and it became clear that she was, in her own furry way, not just an exemplar of the entrepreneurial spirit, but that her life  could also serve as a cautionary tale (tail?). So, with great pleasure, and in no particular order, here is a list ten things we can learn from our dogs!

1. Dogs get excited.

Dogs tend to get excited about the things they love to do. Ever say the word “walk” to your dog or show them the leash? What about at dinner time when you pick up the bowl? Dogs are not shy about getting excited about the things they care about, and entrepreneurs can learn from this. Your enthusiasm should be infectious and your passion should be contagious. When leading teams it is critical that your emotion be pervasive and the more positive the better. Just got a new client? Shout it across the office! Set a new sales record? Send out that email and let everyone know. And wagging your tail a lot doesn’t hurt either.

2. Dogs know when they make a mistake.

Everyone messes up sometimes, and everyone knows it. When dogs make a mistake (often a mistake that involves paper towels to clean up) the expression on their face says it all, “I’m sorry. I messed up and I won’t do it again. Entrepreneurs need to understand that mistakes will be made (both by you and the folks who work for you), but the most important thing someone can do is acknowledge the mistake, learn from it, and not make it again.

3. Dogs are loyal.

When a dog bonds with a person, that’s it,done deal. The end. Finito. They are friends for life That dog will ever turn on their friend and would never do anything to harm them. Entrepreneurs should learn to show the same loyalty to their team, to their investors, and to their customers. Fierce and perpetual, allegiances should be a priority for you and your team.

4. Dogs are grateful.

From the lick on your hand, to the wag of their tail, to the head on your knee, dogs are never shy about displaying their gratitude for what you do for them. Entrepreneurs should work hard to be grateful to those who sustain them; saying thank you to your customers goes a long way, helps to cement relationships, and can be an important competitive differentiator..

5. Dogs appreciate table scraps.

Don’t get me wrong, they enjoy their kibble too, but man do they go crazy for some leftover arroz con pollo! What can entrepreneurs learn from this? Be happy with the small wins – celebrate them everyday as they add up over time and, as anyone can tell you, 5 small wins equal one huge one. Or at least some delicious arroz con pollo.

6. Dogs love to play.

Dogs will play at the drop of a hat. Matter of fact if you drop your hat there’s a good chance a dog will pick it up to play with. This sense of fun is something that you should try to bring to your team everyday. Make it a core value to have fun, to play, and to laugh. Keep toys available – a ping-pong table makes for great breaks in our office as does a Wii. So lighten up, pick up a paddle, and have fun, dammit!

7. Dogs can learn new tricks.

In spite of what many people think, old dogs are quite capable of learning a new trick. Epee´ recently learned how to wave her paw on command and I recently learned how to create a great 4-quadrant chart for displaying data (nerd, right?). Great entrepreneurs celebrate the learning curve and surround themselves with a team that does the same.

8. Dogs know when they are threatened.

When the mail carrier walks up to the door what does your dog do? Barks. Growls. Makes it clear that this is their house and they will do whatever needs to be done to protect it. Matter of fact, they usually spot that mailman several houses away. What can entrepreneurs learn? Watch your competition, stay out in front, and know a threat when you see it. Keep your focus on your own business, but keep your eyes open for a newcomer or an established competitor that may be making a move you want to know about. And don’t be afraid to growl.

9. Dogs trust their nose.

Dogs never stop sniffing, whether on a walk, in the yard, looking out the window, or watching you cook dinner, the nose is always twitching, always sensing the world around them. Apropos of number 8, above, good entrepreneurs need to develop a sense of “smell.” Stay abreast of your market, your competition, and what your team is up to; your nose should be twitching everyday and you should pay close attention. Plus you’ll be the first to know when the popcorn is ready.

10. Dogs wear their heart on their sleeve (if they wore sleeves, that is).

When a dog is sad, you know it. By the same token, when they are happy they show it with that wagging tail, those perked up ears, and two bright, smiling eyes. Entrepreneurs should also be ready to show their emotion – let the team know when you’re thrilled with how things are going; let them see when you are unhappy about their performance (or your own for that matter); and always be the one to cheer them on in their own triumphs and commiserate with their defeats.

Photo: John&Fish