Eight Months in: Lessons Learned vol. 1
Hello, pup enthusiasts.
I began Posey’s Pups on October 12th, 2017. As in, that is when I launched the LLC and the DBA, got insurance, equipment, and that horrible sinking feeling one gets in one’s gut when a business is started.
I did not have a concrete business plan. I didn’t have much of a plan at all; put simply, I knew that if I did research into what it took to start and maintain a business, all I would come away with is fear. I’d chicken out. So I deliberately started a business in a thick cloud of ignorance. All I had was a basic, nuts-and-bolts knowledge of grooming, and an old-world work ethic.
I wouldn’t recommend this track if asked. For any person looking to jump into the wondrous world of bosslessness, I’d tell them to sit on the idea. Think about it deeply, preferably while watching the sunset over a serene lake and skipping rocks. Develop a solid, written business plan and research your market thoroughly. I did none of those things.
Working for another person always put me off. I’ve never been even remotely happy at any of my jobs, even when my bosses were wonderful, understanding, compassionate people. I have an ingrained problem with authority that I always imagined I’d grow out of, but never have. If anything, it’s become more entrenched in my disposition as time passed. It became a personality trait that I negotiated with rather than a fading product of teenage hormones.
Thusly I entered the world of self-employment, totally ignorant and horrified. I’m still so green that it would be foolish of me to pretend that I know what it takes to be self-employed. I have, however, learned a few things that would have helped in the beginning. They might sound like common sense, but common sense and I don’t always get along. I did, after all, start a business on a whim with virtually no plan.
Clients want to like you.
This was a big one for me, and it reminds me of my time doing stand-up comedy. The audience wants to laugh. They aren’t there to hiss and boo. Similarly, clients want to like you. They want you to solve a particular problem in their life. I have never been praised and lauded so regularly until I started this business. Clients commend me on how patient and gentle I am with their dogs, how timely and (mostly) organized I am, how much easier I’ve made getting their dog groomed, etc. How often do you get praised at your job?
While working for other companies, it wasn’t unusual to have a somewhat adversarial relationship with clients. That’s because the interaction was filtered from the client, through a winding corporate breakfast machine, and down to me. The grunt. If I got praised, it was because my boss was having a good day. If I did something wrong, I heard about it. And then I heard about it again. I’m happy to chock this up to my own problems with authority, but I had never been the one wholly responsible for meeting the requests of a client. Now that I am, I see that relationship in a different light. Particularly with clients whom I regularly serve.
I’ve had about 65 clients since the start, with more to come. There have only been a very small number of clients who clearly didn’t want to like me, no matter what I did. The rest have been wonderful, open-minded, and occasionally great conversationalists. I’m sure this applies to other industries as well.
People Love Their Dogs
Like, a lot. Of course, I knew this. I’ve worked in the dog industry since I was 15. I know dogs so well that there are no surprises. In fact, even the nasty smells that dogs tend to create have a way of inspiring a flush of nostalgia within me. “Mmmm, anal glands. That reminds me of high school. Oh, how the time flies…”
The reason I list this as a lesson learned is because it greatly influences the way I relate to my clients. They LOVE their dog(s). I am there to groom their dog(s). There is a bit of an extra bond there that I don’t imagine exists with, say, a mechanic. Sure, somebody can love their car. But their car can’t love them back. In the world of dogs, there is a ton of love. They have a way of bringing out the best in people. Which brings me to my next point…
Many Dogs Have Been Hideously Abused
I’ve heard my share of abuse stories when it comes to dogs, but I have been absolutely floored by some of the back stories my clients have given me. It is truly sickening what some humans will do to arguably the most vulnerable animal on the planet. Puppy mills where the females have their teeth filed off so they can’t fight off the males who want to mate with them, where they pump out litter after litter until the poor dogs body is warped and her mind is scarred. One of my favorite client’s dog’s was found IN A TRASH BAG on the side of the road. It wasn’t enough to abandon this lovely creature, they had to put her IN A F****** TRASH BAG! Degenerate monsters! No wonder she’s twitchy when I pull out a trash bag to collect the fur at the end of the groom!
Thankfully, having worked in the dog world for so long, I’ve developed a thick skin. I can make a dog more comfortable and clean. I can’t get inside their head and remove their demons. We do what we can.
Self-Employment is Lonely
I should have known, but I didn’t. All the chit chat you have with your coworkers and managers? That’s completely gone. It’s just you, out in the sprawling DFW metroplex in your Hyundai Elantra packed to capacity with grooming equipment. Driving from house to house, from apartment to apartment, loading and unloading.
If something goes wrong, there’s nobody you can call. No higher-ups to swing in to rescue you. Similarly, there’s nobody under you to wash the towels, clean the equipment, organize invoices, order supplies. It’s just you, you, you. Or in this case, me, me, me. It’s a kind of loneliness I didn’t quite anticipate. It’s not dreadful. In fact, I’d say it’s kind of romantic. “Lone man on the highway” kind of thing.
Those are the few core things I’ve learned since I started Posey’s Pups back in October. Nothing groundbreaking or unexpected. Nothing pertaining to the ins-and-outs of business. That’s because on the business side of things, I feel like I’ve got a dozen eggs in the air and I’m trying to catch all of them. When you’re self-employed, you’re always on the clock. It’s always on the back of my mind, even when I get up in the middle of the night to take a wee.