My Dog, My Reality Check

Nearly every morning I head out with my beautiful little girl dog, aBoo (sounds like Abu), a 115-pound Newfoundland. We always walk the same trek: down the block, toward the neighborhood Catholic school, over a long hill, and then up 282 stairs to the top of Mount Tabor. The route is about three miles roundtrip or a bit more if we take the long way home.

I enjoy the walk, as it is great exercise, and the sunrise can be gorgeous from the top of the hill. Unfortunately, a recent morning walk wasn’t fun. In fact, it was quite frustrating. The problem? aBoo is a Snuffelator. When we walk she insists on stopping every several feet to sniff this and that, and all around. She also likes to stop in the middle of the sidewalk and wait for me to bribe her with a biscuit as payment for accompanying me on the walk. Note: She does not do this in the evenings when we are on “her” walk. Nope.

On this particular morning, aBoo was feeling particularly lazy and I was not in the mood to cajole her with treats; I just wanted to get on with our walk. I wanted her to knock off the antics and get with the program. Ha! That was wishful thinking.

Then I had an “ah ha” moment and realized my approach was all wrong. First, I had to stop directing how aBoo was “supposed” to act. Next, I needed to consider how she saw the world so that I better understood her behavior. Finally and most importantly, I had to recognize that I was responsible for my own feelings of frustration. After all, she was just being herself: aBoo, the Snuffelator.

This is just one example of how aBoo serves as a great reality check in my life. Just when I start to impart my agenda and ideals, she quickly sets me straight. Of course some people might say she is just a dog, a companion, but I see her as much more; she is a unique individual with her own wants and needs not unlike a customer or client.

Consider what happens when you make changes to your business model or services with only your needs in mind. Or, what happens when your prospect doesn’t behave the way you expect. At first you get frustrated, right? But then you realize your business and longterm success is not all about you, it’s about how you can help others with their needs and concerns.

You cannot operate in a vacuum. Instead, you need to find an aBoo; someone who provides clarity. Perhaps one or two of your existing clients can serve as good sounding boards for new ideas or changes. This process doesn’t require a formal survey, just coffee or lunch so you can catch up on their business and share your ideas. Most clients will appreciate the check-in and will be flattered to know you value their opinion.

The key is to explain your idea, but not push an agenda. Really listen to the feedback and ask for suggestions. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with what you can learn. Suddenly, your good idea is tweaked into a great concept.

Now, when aBoo and I head out on our morning walks, we take the usual route and face the exact same starts and stops along the way. However, my outlook has changed (a tiny bit). I expect aBoo will sniff and stall, and, instead of becoming frustrated I simply laugh and offer her treats. (I also bring along a few more podcasts so I can learn while she stalls. Our walks are now much more enjoyable.)

* Yes her name is aBoo. (Of course it is. Her mom’s in marketing!)

Postscript: If you’d like to see photos of aBoo — how beautiful, furry and drool-prone she is — join me on Twitter. I post photos of her every time we reach the Summit of Mount Tabor.