May 31, 2014 was a red letter day for our family. For, at 7 am ET on that day, our family dog, Max, breathed his last without any warning. Max came to our home when he was all of eight weeks old. For a brief moment, when we relocated from India to Canada, we were on the verge of giving him up. But a phone call to the Mississauga Animal Control Department clarified the rules and we filed all the paperwork to bring him along with us to Canada.
For the next ten and half years he became such an integral part of our family, sharing all the highs and lows, that 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. Trying to pick up the pieces and make sense of what happened, knowing fully well that it will take a long time to fill the void – if at all.
As I spent the next two weeks reminiscing his life with us and recollecting his various antics, it suddenly dawned on me that a lot of what he did had valuable life lessons for me. In fact, for any human being. And, its relevance was greater when you put them in the context of a small and medium business lessons.
So, I decided to pen down my thoughts and draw up five of those from the long list of things he did. Here is my summary of those five and 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 when he was part of a ride in our car, Max would know it as soon as I picked up the car keys. 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 as the wind hit his face and he took in the surroundings as they moved in a blur past him. And when we came back home, his was beset with unbounded energy that only a little kid could have. As a small and medium business owner life can, sometimes, get lonely. You tend to let the running of the business overwhelm you, leaving little time to enjoy what life has to offer – letting opportunities that refresh you pass by without you noticing them. Take the time to step back from the business often. Enjoy the rest of the world. You will find that the wind in your face will provide you with much needed energy that will 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 clients 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.
- If there lies buried a bone, dig till you find it – Persistence was one of the hallmarks of Max. If he knew there was something he wanted he would persevere till the end to get it. Never gave up. As a small and medium business owner, competing in today’s environment is not easy. I am sure that there are several moments in your journey when you wanted to give up. Unfortunately, today’s world tends to put an undue emphasis on instant results which, like instant nirvana, can be elusive. But persistence pays. Stick to your action plan, be consistent in what you do without letting up and keep digging. If you are in for the long-term and not instant results, this will provide you with great results.
Avoid biting when a simple growl will do – Max was a big fella but a friendly one. People were clearly wary of this and the thought that he would charge at them. But for him, the thought of charging at someone and biting was farthest from his mind. Just baring his teeth and growling was enough to keep the unwanted at bay, allowing him to concentrate on what he did instead of wasting his energies chasing them. Small and medium businesses constantly face distractions from their main purpose of business building. Many of these are creations of those who do not wish your business to succeed. Instead of succumbing to the temptation of going after them, just growl. No point in wasting your energies going after those distractions when you could concentrate on building your business.
- When an employee is having a bad day, sit close by and nuzzle them gently – 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 and allow them the space to get over whatever is bothering them. Talk to them. Nuzzle them. As a business owner if you cannot do it yourself vest the responsibility of employee caring with someone senior in your team. Let the employees know you care, you are there when their days are bad. It will pay you in the long run.
They say time will heal the wound. Good memories will trump the sad ones. I tend to agree with this. As the good memories flood in, the pain of separation is subsiding in micro-millimeters. 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.