GREATER NEW YORK CHAPTER

What Your Dog Can Teach You About Business

Who says business lessons can't come from man's best friend? Check out the story of one dog's lasting impact on his entrepreneur owner.
Cody, the office dog.

Cody, the office dog.

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This week, I lost my longest tenured employee. She had been with me since I launched Geode Software and well before I started EasySeat. That employee, as I facetiously call her, was my dog, Cody.  

She came to the office with me every day since the day after we brought her home. I realize now that my life and career as an entrepreneur have been shaped by her presence.  So, if you will indulge me, I’d like to share with you the business lessons I learned from my dog.

1. Train your people.  From the day every new hire walked through the door of EasySeat, they all received a training regimen on how to deal with Cody's begging for food and attention. Within a week, every new employee knew what it was to deal with an office dog. This taught me to start training my new employees early if I wanted them to succeed.

2. Be consistent and persistent. Cody had the soft-sell of puppy dog eyes.  That same, daily soft-sell broke even the hearts of employees that were not dog lovers, and ultimately, she had a friend in everyone that came through our door. The lesson? Soft persistence can break through to even the toughest customer.

3. Incentivize. For Cody, perhaps the most powerful word in the English language was “cookie.”  With that one word, Cody learned to do everything from sit to stop barking at the doorbell. If you expect positive performance, it has to be fostered by the proper incentives.

4. Stop taking everything so seriously.  When it looked like Geode Software was going to run out of cash and fail, all Cody wanted was a simple scratch of the belly. Likewise, this was her reaction when EasySeat made the Inc 500 list.  I defy anyone to try to take themselves seriously scratching a dog’s belly…go ahead…try it.  It’s never as bad or as good as we make it seem.

5. You have a home. Use it. Being an entrepreneur can be full of long days and endless nights.  While she faithfully stayed with me through all of those times, Cody was always a silent reminder that there was a life outside of the office.

6. Running a business is easier with a partner.  Many of those long days were spent in solitude in front of a computer writing code or responding to emails.  As a lone founder, I haven’t had the benefit of a business partner, at least a human partner, to accompany me in those solitary times. Simply having someone to talk to in the wee hours of the night is a cathartic experience for an entrepreneur.

7. Work as hard to touch lives outside your business as you do in it.  Whether greeting a new customer or a child on the street, everyone got a happy wag of the tail and an excited greeting from Cody.  When you are passionate about your business, it’s easy to get immersed and feel like the only way you touch people’s lives is through your work.  The reality is that the majority of entrepreneurs will be measured by the lives they touch away from their businesses.  Be sure to try as hard to touch people away from your business as you do in it.

8. Distrust the mailman.  I still haven’t found the practical application for this one yet, but I’m sure I will some day.

For the first time in the arc of EasySeat, I won’t have my trusty sidekick at my feet. While a dog can’t make business decisions, it can contribute to the health and mental well being of those that it touches.  And, in some small way, I know that my dog has made me a better businessperson.  I’ll take the lessons she taught me into the future, but right now, I just wish she could be with me to see it. 

 

Last updated: Jun 1, 2012

DAVID EVANS | Columnist | CEO of EastSeat, LLC

David started his first business at 19 and has spent the majority of his career running his own companies, including his most recent, EasySeat, which has made the Inc 500|5000 for the last two years. David is a classically-trained software developer and IT generalist. David is a member of the Inc. Business Owners Council.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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