What a dog rescue taught me about business

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A few weeks ago someone posted a photo of a dog with a limping leg begging for food from people in the streets on a page called Malaysian Dogs Deserves Better, a non profit helping and rescuing dogs. He was in bad condition and was in desperate need of help.

Since I live only 30 minutes away from the area, I knew I had to step up to help rather than wait for someone else. The following day Jin Lee (my girlfriend) and I went to the place described in the photo. We searched high and low for the dog but it was nowhere to be seen.

After walking around for almost an hour, we nearly gave up our search and called it a day. While we were walking back, we saw the dog resting under a car. He was so weak he barely noticed us approaching him.

As I approached him, I could smell his wet coat as he was soaked from the rain earlier.

We fed him some treats, but every time we went closer, he would back away and continued hiding under the car. It took us nearly 3 hours to get him and we brought him to the vet to be examined.

While we were patiently feeding him, a few thoughts flashed in my mind. This humbling experience got me thinking the way I am running my business and it taught me some important lessons. Let me share them with you:

1. Plan

I had no idea how and what to do with the dog. Jin Lee and I never rescued any dogs and never had we planned one before. We just went for it and thought our instincts were enough.

As you might have already guessed, our plan to just go with the flow didn’t work (duh). Our treats to bribe the dog finished before we could even get close to him!

Running a business requires a well-thought plan as too. This is why most businesses have a business plan before they start a business, and preferably many, many more backup plans other than that. In business, we have to be prepared to take every wrong turn – but the problem is most of the time we are not lucky enough to be able to turn back.

2. Strategy

Rescuing a dog required a strategy.We knew the dog wasn’t going to enter into our car on its own and we had to find a way to get him into the car. We came up with the strategy to get the leash on his neck so that he wouldn’t be able to run from us. From there, we came up with a couple of tactics on how we could put the leash around his neck (good thing dogs don’t speak English, otherwise he would’ve known our tactics).

In our business, we require strategies on how we’re going to accomplish our goals. We sometimes need step-by-step strategies to help accomplish one complicated goal.

3. Improvise

Our tactic to capture the dog didn’t go according to plan of course. We came up with so many plans but they didn’t work as we couldn’t foresee how the dog would react. Knowing that, we improvised and changed our strategy until we found one that worked for us. Even so we had to try it a couple of times before we finally put the leash on the dog.

In business, you have to continuously improvise. If something doesn’t work for you, you have to constantly change and find what works and fits your business.

4. Trust

One of the most important factors in business, life and …. in this case rescuing a dog, is trust. If we don’t have the dog’s trust, we couldn’t go near him and he would just run away each time we tried to. We had to gain his trust before we try to catch him.

In business, if you don’t build trust with your customers, they won’t buy from you. Sometimes we tend to forget this and go for the sale straight away without knowing what the customer really wants.

5. Reward

Call it ‘bribing’ if you will, but giving out rewards do work. We had to bribe the dog with food so that he stayed in place and it’s the same with business too. You have to reward your customers. You could reward loyal customers with gifts directly or run contests to gain new readers, subscribers, buyers, viewers, etc and reward their participation with a gift.

6. Patience

I thought rescuing a dog would be a walk in the park. It wasn’t. I’m not going to lie to you and say that it wasn’t a little frustrating to approach the dog and have the dog run away. I mean we only had good intentions. A few people even saw us trying to help the dog and they offered their help too. That got the dog to run even further as he was too afraid of all of us.

This is the case in business. I’ve seen so many good businesses – with brilliant intentions, ideas and improvements to offer to the world – fail because they tried to expand too quickly with the hope that people will see how good their products are and just buy them. They invested so much in so little time that they simply couldn’t stay in business.

Jin Lee and I knew we couldn’t just abandon the dog. We followed him literally everywhere he went. Soon he was tired and just stopped, that is where we gained his trust. We fed him, sat with him for nearly an hour and a half before we managed to put the leash around his neck.

When you’re running a business, it can be frustrating sometimes. But trust me on this, it doesn’t take a day to grow an apple tree, it takes a few years with care and patience to grow it before you can reap its rewards. That’s the way business works too.

What happened to the dog now? He’s part of the family now and we gave him a home and we named him… BOY


  • glitterglitzer

    Hey Aaron! What a beautiful story and just in time for Christmas. It made me smile many times and it reminded me of the long hours I was sitting in the wind and cold until I could rescue an animal. Thank you for rescuing the dog. If everyone would have a heart as big as you, Jin Lee and me, there would be a lot less suffering.
    I liked the comparison to running a business. it really is the same if you strip all the stuff away. And it really comes down to one thing… try, try and try again until you succeed. :-)
    Merry Christmas.

  • Liz

    That was a wonderful story. Boy looks so different in his before and after picture. You are a very kind person to take him in. I also love the comparison between the business and the dog rescue. Very nice. :)

  • http://twitter.com/annelizhannan Anneliz Hannan

    Great message Aaron. In the end by taking the time to develop all those components you reap stealth loyalty.

  • http://twitter.com/llcomiskey llcomiskey Laura

    Wonderful story, your determination and dedication in
    this instance is highly admirable. Thank you for stepping up to rescue
    this canine who now has a name of Boy and a home for life. The parallels
    between understanding and nurturing a business and that of
    understanding and nurturing a relationship between man and dog are evident. Nice read.