Lessons from a Cavalier pup on change and innovation

I’ve loved and owned dogs for over 50 years and been in businesses for over 40 years with the last 18 as a small-business owner.

Recently we brought home our newest family member Henry, a Cavalier Spaniel. I thought I knew all there was to know about bringing up puppies. But it had been 14 years since my last pup, despite owning other Cavaliers throughout that time.

Had best practice health and nutrition advice changed? Would I remember what was required around a cute but mischievous pup? Yes to the former, no to the latter.

So, it has been with fresh eyes this time around with Henry. And from that has come many business lesson reflections for small businesses.

What was good is no longer okay

Over the last decade there had been extensive research, new products, health studies and evidence on nutrition for puppies and dogs.

The pet sector has exploded with a desire for and access to better research and products. I will not discuss the actualities here, but suffice to say, what I once thought was good was not always still best practice.

Our breeder asked a thought-provoking question before we met, “Are we open to looking at new research on nutrition”? I knew I had to review old beliefs and read more on nutrition and other aspects of health.

The world has changed in every way and innovation, science, evidence and research has led the charge. It was no different with working out what was best for Henry.

Innovation, change and vulnerability

To survive and thrive small businesses must embrace innovation, change and vulnerability.

Innovation is defined as a new idea, method or device or the introduction of something new. Implementing and promoting them is intended to effect significant change and improvements.

Brené Brown, esteemed global academic researcher on shame, vulnerability and empathy states:

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”

But change can be a real struggle for people and businesses. The thought pattern of ‘we have always done it that way’ etc keeps people stuck in comfort zones that hinders better outcomes. Brené also states:

“You can choose courage or you can choose comfort. But you cannot choose both.”

Change is uncomfortable and small businesses are often hesitant to be really creative. It’s about doing things differently, losing ego and the ‘we have always done it that way’ mindset.

Business lessons from Henry

  1. Never assume – Always keep abreast of the latest research and information. Don’t assume the business advice you once heard or implemented is still best practice.
  2. Time Management – I was never an early morning riser, but now 7am is the norm. So much more I can fit into the day now. And because he is a hand full of mischievousness between naps, I have re-learnt to manage my time far more effectively.
  3. Toilet Training – It takes patience, consistency and time here. Same with PR, social media and sales campaigns. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.
  4. Different toys – Having a diverse range of toys for different needs is similar to having different suppliers and staff who have different needs and preferences.
  5. Ongoing Training – Puppies, like business, learn and need to keep fresh. And it’s okay to make mistakes as you keep trying. Be kind to yourself.

You have to do what you have to do in business to survive and thrive. That doesn’t mean illegal, or unethical actions but being courageous and vulnerable with an open mind and teachable spirit. And having lots of fun and playtime, too!

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