Greyhounds have always been part of my life
I have an 8 year old greyhound called Tom. I adopted him from GAP WA (Greyhounds as Pets) when he retired from racing.
Greyhounds have always been part of my life. I was born in Walthamstow, East London E17, home of the former greyhound racetrack affectionately known by locals as “The Stow”. The building has since been demolished, however during my childhood it stood iconic, mysterious (to me anyway!), fortunes won (or so the adults bragged!) and fortunes lost (probably closer to the truth).
My Grandad Tom (was it a coincidence that my greyhound is also called Tom?) worked on the track as an electrical engineer well into his twilight years.
When I visited to GAP to look at some greyhounds 5 years ago, I was shown several dogs that had been assessed and suitable to be re-homed as a pet.
How could I resist those big brown eyes?
I didn’t look any further than the first dog that was shown to me, large black 4 year old male called Tom. Partly because of the adorable big brown eyes and because of his name Tom. His actual racing name was Cowboy Country, so he was also known as Cowboy Tom.
As I work in my home office with Tom for company, I think of what my greyhound has taught me about running a small business.
Stay 100% focussed and do one thing well
Greyhounds are bred to keep their prey in sight and then overpower it with speed and agility. They have incredibly sharp sight and rely on this more than hearing and endurance. They have a heightened sensitivity to objects and rapid movement in their field of vision (this is one of the reasons why in many places greyhounds must be muzzled in public and only let off the lead in controlled situations).
Tom can see a leaf blowing along the park from several hundred metres. and when something he wants that is the only thing he sees at that moment in time – nothing will make him take his eyes off it.
He is incredibly fast and can cover a lot of ground in a short period of time, but he’s a sprinter not a marathon runner. It’s all over after an intensive burst and he then takes time to rest.
When he is focused he does so with 100%, nothing else distracts him, he is fully present ready to respond.
Work with intensity but know when to play
Tom knows when to work and when to rest and play. Greyhounds are active in very short bursts. unlike my Border Collie who is built for endurance, my greyhound has a huge burst of energy at high speed with intense focus and then a rest.
In my working day I stick to the Pomodero Technique so I am not distracted by the many temptations. For that 25 minute chunk, I do one thing and one thing only.
If I have have short intensive bursts and then a rest, I am able to focus for the next task.
Stay grounded and remember the things in life that really matter
Dogs are very good at remaining interested in those that matter. When you get caught up building a business, relationships can suffer. My greyhound teaches me to stay grounded, to appreciate those close to me with a smile – I always get a tail wag (interestingly my greyhound didn’t wag his tail at for the first 12 months – it took him a while to learn to be a pet).
He reminds me that i need to take regular time out and appreciate the wonderful relationships i have.
Learn to adapt to a changing environment
My greyhound had to get used to a lot of change to when he first came to our home. Many of these dogs have only ever known a hard life of racing and have not seen everyday things such as stairs, roads, cars, or the beach. He had to learn quickly to trust us and to try new things. He was on a steep learning curve and now he likes trying new things and meeting new people.
He taught me that when running small business, there are many new things that you will encounter. Find some trusted people who will support and guide you along your journey and learn to enjoy trying new things.
Aim high there are no limits to what you can have
There are no limits to what you can have – now my greyhound takes this literally. As soon as my back is turned he takes what he wants! He has been quite hard to train (it’s tough for them to adapt to life as a pet). Now I do agree that there are no limits to your on success and as a small business owner it is important to set high goals and work to achieve them, but I also play within the rules!
Learn from mistakes
Dogs aren’t supposed to eat chocolate. It’s bad for them. One day Tom ate five Lindt Bunnies that he stole from the table. He had a sore tummy that night and soon learned that mistake.
We all make mistakes, it’s all part of growth and development. Running a business is trial and error and there will be mistakes made along the way. It’s what you learn from those mistakes that is important.
Take time to hang out with your tribe
Tom loves other dogs and is very sociable, but what he loves the most is the times gets to hang out with dogs who look and think just like him; his tribe is the group of other GAP dogs who are now loved as pets. We meet up monthly at Greyhound Playgroup. It’s fun to watch them play together, they do what they do best, they race!
I miss working in a large office in the city with people around me. As a small business owner, it’s good to take the time out to catch up with others share successes and challenges and find someone to be your mentor.
Running a business is easier if you have a loyal friend beside you – Tom never tires of hearing a competition speech or a business idea for the umpteenth time.
Overall, extreme focus, short bursts of action followed by a rest, never forgetting what is important to you, make time for your tribe and learn from your mistakes.
The 7 things that my greyhound Tom has taught me about running a small business are:
- Stay 100 focused and do one thing well.
- Work with intensity and know when to play.
- Stay grounded and remember the things in life that really matter.
- Learn to adapt to a changing environment.
- Aim high there are no limits to what you can have.
- Learn from any mistakes.
- Take time out to be with your tribe.
About the author
Lisa Evans helps leaders and entrepreneurs to craft compelling business stories and become exceptional speakers. Lisa is a certified speaker coach, TEDx speaker coach, four times author, NLP practitioner, graphic recorder and visual storyteller, and improvisational actor.
She has coached thousands of leaders across a range of industries, including resources, banking, finance, engineering, retail and sales as well as not-for-profit and community associations.
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