The Ugly Truth About the Success of your Pet Brand
Yesterday in Portland, Oregon I had the distinct pleasure and honor of speaking at the 2017 Women in the Pet Industry conference. I thought I would record and share my speech with all of you who couldn’t be there with us at this wonderful, inspiring event.
Grab a notebook because as usual, I’ve got some action items and a challenge for you at the end!
Want More Goodies Like this?
The Ugly Truth About the Success of your Pet Brand
A few weeks ago I was sure I wasn’t going to be able to fly from London to stand up here and speak with you today. I’ll tell you why a little later on, but I want to start by saying that just how grateful I am to be in this room, surrounded with you and your warm energy love and generosity.
This bubble we’re in right now – here in Portland – is very special. It doesn’t come along every day, and I’d like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Shawna and Alicia and everyone else who puts in the hard work and care to make sure this event happens. I was in the achievers summit yesterday – and although it was a gruelling, intense day, it’s probably one of the best things I’ve done for my business all year and I hope to really develop some lasting friendships as well.
Currently in my work, I am dedicated to helping entrepreneurs find freedom and fulfilment by building brands instead of just businesses. What I do is a mashup of marketing consulting, brand development, strategy, problem solving and usually a little bit of magic.
When I was thinking about the topic for this 18 min chat with you today – my first instinct was to try to share some clever marketing hacks like I did at Global, or some teaser for my book….
But I realized I wanted to give something that would be more lasting than tactics.
I wanted to leave you with a get out of jail free card, or a permission slip, or an ah-ha of some kind that could maybe get you a little closer to your version of freedom.
Then I started thinking about Freedom. The pursuit of freedom is something I take very seriously. It’s the reason many of us started our own business: to have time to spend with our pets, to be our own boss… to have a ‘lifestyle business’ but man how quickly that becomes something that looks a lot less like freedom and a lot more like overtime, stress and like 24/7 commitment and worry!
When my clients come to me it’s almost always because they are a long, long ways from anything that feels like freedom or fulfilment. Almost always it’s burnout, overwhelm, confusion, or dissatisfaction that brings people to my door.
When we begin our work, it’s usually in the aim of creating or building something. A brand, a website, a plan…
But boiled down to it, most of my clients are standing at some sort of crossroads, and my job is to help them navigate some sort of fairly radical change. A change that will ultimately get them closer to their version of freedom or fulfilment.
This process, is messy. Sometimes painful. It’s confronting. It’s raw.
The insight I want to share with you today is a glaring truth that has emerged from hundreds of these conversations…. and that is this:
No matter how much you want to convince yourself that it’s what you do, build, sell, create, trademark or perfect that will ensure the success of your pet brand, the ugly truth, is that it is in fact what you let go of that will define you.
It will not be what you have– but what you release – that will make or break you.
In my experience, our ability to let go, is the single greatest challenge we face as an entrepreneur.
And unfortunately, as I expect many of you already know, that letting go, almost always involves walking straight into an inferno of huge fear … Your resilience in the face of that fear and failure that defines your success.
I would like to take a moment to tell you a couple stories…
Last year I started working with a client, a pet photographer, who was very sure that the work she wanted to do, was to work on a plan to accomplish her first six figure year. She was extremely fixated on this goal, although it was not based on incremental growth or performance – it simply sounded like the version of success she wanted most at that time.
Now keep in mind, we began working together at the end of August, and she had 30k stil to earn before the end of the year, with zero plans or prospects for achieving this goal. After a few sessions, and some discussions about realistic growth, product and pricing strategy, marketing channels and promotions, she relaxed a bit and decided that maybe she was pushing really hard for a slightly superficial goal – and that actually instead of a frenetic push for revenue, our time might be better spent putting a more lasting, long-term plan in place, to ensure that in 2017 she hit that six-figure year. But wouldn’t you know it, as soon as she let go and made the shift to allow herself the space and grace to do the deeper, slower work – she ended up hitting her six figure year in November – almost as if by accident.
The next little story I’d like to share with you, comes directly from this very room, one year ago. Last year at the WIPIN conference I met a wonderful petpreneur who had a strong business but new she needed to do SOMETHING to build her online business. She was happen with her in-person sales but wanted to increase her passive income products, build a stronger presence online, solidify her brand and invest in ‘stepping up’ her game – since she had DIY’d all of her marketing and branding when she launched and not really revisited it since. We set about working together one on one, defining her brand pillars, brand statement – when it suddenly became clear that we had different expectations about what it means to ‘refresh’ her brand… She was fully committed to keeping her logo and website the same– hoping that changing the words on the website would be enough to accomplish a ‘brand refresh’ – and I was under the impression she was prepared to change it all in order to achieve her the ambitious goals we set together.
There was an awkward and tense couple weeks as I tried to help her as best as I could, within the confines of her comfort zone, until one day she decided she was ready for a new logo, but not a new website… Then not long after, she realized all the work and investment wasn’t really going to have the impact she desired if she didn’t just go all in. The issue for her wasn’t really about the investment, or the work – she was ready to give her all – it was a deep connection to the logo and website and copy she already had, her own ideas about how customers should be using it and perceiving it, and an incredible fear of the mental, emotional and time-related demands a project of this scope would require. It was just too much. So once again, I set out to help her get the best results I could within the restrictions of her current situation, until again one day, she got in touch and confirmed that ‘OK, I’m ready’ – I am all in.
She let go of her doubts, walked straight into her fear, practiced letting go over and over again as she let a whole team of professionals help her refresh her logo, design and build a new website – wrestled with her own personal taste versus the sometimes conflicting advice of those experts – and literally forced herself through the transformation one painful step at a time.
When she finally had her new logo and launched her new website, about 4 months later, not only did she experience relief and euphoria at having survived the fear and resistance she was battling previously, she also experienced an immediate doubling in sales of her passive income products, and was inundated with new opportunities for press, television, custom projects and more. Her project was an outrageous success by all measures, and it was only possible because she found the fortitude to let go.
* * *
Now, on a more personal note, I said earlier that a few weeks ago I didn’t think I would be able to be here on this stage today.
That uncertainty was because on Thursday August 31st, totally out of the blue, my Frenchie Charleston had 5 seizures in 4 hours. On September 1st, he was diagnosed with a glioma tumor in his brain. When I saw the MRI it didn’t need any explanation – he had a huge solid white egg-shaped mass taking up nearly 25% of his brain. The doctor who had very few concrete answers for us, estimated a life expectancy of 1 day to 1 year. He told us that the average life-span for this type of tumor was 2 months.
Of course we were reeling with these horrible odds, impossible choices about how the end of his life would go on top of obviously the utter shock and devastation.
Sadly, we didn’t get 2 months, two weeks, or even two days. In the early hours of September 3rd , at the hospital where we couldn’t see him or be with him to say goodbye, Charlie had a one last seizure and we lost him. In the space of 3 days he’d gone from what we thought was a perfectly healthy 7 yr. old dog, to, just, gone.
It took me about week to decide if I would still come here to Portland. Everything relating to business just seemed so irrelevant.
I am telling you this because having already written this speech about letting go, then losing this love in my life, it seemed impossible not to notice and mention the irony. I am standing on a stage today urging you to embrace loss and change, while I am personally struggling to do the same. It’s hard. It sucks. It’s unfair. It doesn’t get easier.
Losing a loved one, facing your fear, taking big risks, having no control about the big things in your life – you know what? When they’re happening to you, they can all feel exactly the same – equally destructive. Equally sickening.
But even in our most unexplainable, disastrous lows – even when we feel we have no control – we still have one choice. We can allow these losses to break us – or let them galvanize us into the people are meant to be. Serving those we’re meant to serve. Sharing messages we feel compelled to share. Connecting with people who need comfort we can provide. Fighting for causes and building brands that really matter.
Two years ago, when I lost my heart dog, a Great Dane named Olivia, I was able to spend two solid weeks of quality time saying goodbye to her. I didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission to stop my life and lay by her side 24 hrs a day. It stirred up in me the cause that I want to fight for: and that is taking ownership of how we each are spending our most precious resource: our time.
The loss of Olivia was the reason that I started Working with Dog and became obsessed with helping other entrepreneurs find freedom and fulfilment… so they too could have the luxury of spending time with the people and animals that make their lives worth living. Not just when they’re sick, but every day, in all the small ways that matter most.
It has been exactly 23 days and 7 hours since we had to let Charlie go. I am not even close to OK with it yet. But this recent loss is a powerful reminder to me of why I do what I do. Although his death was sudden, because of my obsession with chasing freedom and fulfilment, his life was remarkable. We had the great fortune to travel together all over Europe – living for months at a time in Spain, France and Italy. He chased balls on world class beaches, laid in the sun spots on ancient terraces, dined in michelan star restaurants and he marked his territory in over 10 countries. Although accepting that our baby boy is gone is excruciating, losses like this make it impossible to ignore just how essential all of this fluffy ‘freedom and fulfilment’ chasing is. Just how critical it is that we don’t wait to find time to do the things that really matter.
Change isn’t always optional. It doesn’t often feel good, but it is always a chance to start fresh. It can be a great catalyst for finding out what our version of freedom looks like and a fantastic source of motivation to make it happen.
So, today, I’d like to leave you with a few thoughts and one challenge.
When it comes to letting go, there are 5 key spots I suggest you start looking for some baggage to ditch:
- The first one is other people’s definitions of success or happiness. The sooner you can ditch other people’s expectations or judgements about what you want, need or ‘should do’ the faster you’ll feel free.
- The second place to start the process of letting go, is when it comes to tasks, responsibilities and obligations. The question I’d pose to you is ‘how do you most want to spend your time’ – and work towards delegating or outsourcing everything you’re currently doing that doesn’t make the list.
- The third thing, which goes right along with the second thing, is the need for control. Yes, it’s easier said than done to pass things on to other people to do and possibly screw up, but this is an essential growth step on the path towards freedom that anyone who’s done it will say is one thing the wish they’d done sooner
- The fourth key bit of baggage I’d work towards releasing, is any anger or fear-basd feelings you have around your competition. Shawna mentioned this yesterday and I experience this a lot within the industry. There IS ENOUGH TO GO AROUND and you’ll be a much happier, free’er person if you find a way to truly believe that and act accordingly. Be generous by default. Good things will come
- The fifth and final one, and possibly the most important, is to ditch your excuses. One of my favorite quotes (please excuse the language) is:
“You cannot be committed to your bullshit and your growth, it’s one or the other”
– Scott Stabile
When you feel or hear your BS excuses rising up, consciously work on letting them go – ditch the defensiveness and commit to your growth. You can’t have them both.
And lastly the challenge I’d like to leave you with today – for your action item list – is this:
Write down one thing you KNOW has been standing in your way – either because you’re afraid to try or fail, or you can’t let go. In this safe space, surrounded by these wonderful, warm, supportive hearts – I’d like to challenge you to commit to moving past this thing.
I’d like you to write it down, and set a date by which you have a plan of action for moving past this one thing. It can be something big like transitioning out of a lease or a partnership, or something small like just simply letting go of a to-do list item that’s been lingering for months and just letting yourself off the hook for it.
Think of this as emotional decluttering challenge.
A personal invitation from me to you, to let go and make room for greatness.
To take your first step towards your own unique brand of freedom and fulfilment… and all the rewards that come along with it.