3 Business Lessons from a Labrador Retriever

Labrador RetrieverToday (May 31, 2019) will be five years since our family Labrador Retriever, Max, breathed his last without any warning. Max came to our home when he was all of eight weeks old. And when we moved to Canada, over 14 years ago, he moved here with us.

For the ten and half years since coming home, he became such an integral part of our family. Sharing all the highs and lows of our lives. During that time, we never once stopped to imagine a life without him.

So, on that fateful day when he passed away with all the family members surrounding him, it was like a sledgehammer had hit us with full force. Our lives were shattered into many pieces leaving each one of us to grieve in our own way.

Just a few years before this event I had given up a good corporate job to jump into business. I spent the few weeks following his passing reminiscing his various antics. It suddenly dawned on me that a lot of what he did had valuable life lessons for me. And, its relevance was greater when I put them in the context of a being a small business owner.

Here is my summary of three, I believe, that have the most impact. I hope you, as a small and medium business owner, will find them relevant to your life as a business person.

Never pass up an opportunity for a joy ride

On the occasions we planned a car ride with him, Max would know it instantly. His excitement was palpable and evident for everyone to see. He would run and jump onto the back seat of the car without waiting for anyone or anything. During the ride he would be most ecstatic. Letting the wind hit his face while he took in the surroundings. Even if they moved in a blur past him. And when we came back home he was still  beset with unbounded energy.

Your life as a small and medium business owner can get lonely. The running of the business can overwhelm you. Leaving you with little time to enjoy what life has to offer. Take the time to step back from the business often. Enjoy what the world has to offer. The wind in your face can lift your spirits and recharge you.

Be loyal 

No matter how angry or strict I got with him, Max never flinched in his loyalty towards me and the family. He would sense the ups and downs and stuck with me through them all.

For a small and medium business, loyalty will pay off in spades. Loyalty to your client base. To the suppliers who help you maintain your brand promise. To the employees who live and breathe your commitment to your customers. And loyalty to your community. You will find that they will return this in a big way and stick with you through the ups and downs in your business.

When an employee is having a bad day, give them the space

Max was very perceptive of my moods. The days I came back home after a bad day there was this uncanny way in which he would sense it. Instead of romping around me he would sit down down quietly beside me waiting for my mood to change.

Your employees are your greatest assets. As human beings they would have their moments in life. At such times, understand their need. Allow them the space to get over whatever is bothering them. Talk to them. As a business owner if you cannot do it yourself, get someone senior to do this. Let the employees know you care.  That you are there when their days are bad. It will pay you in the long run.

Toronto Humane SocietyIn the years since he left us, the void was filled by Leo, the Lab-Husky mix we adopted from the Toronto Humane Society. Like Max, Leo has exhibited the same traits thus helping me come back to living in the moment.

The unintended messages Max provided through his life reinforce a resolve to make things happen. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing this.

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