It’s a dream come true for pet-lovers to work in the industry we love. Unfortunately, in spite of the passion we have for pets, many pet-based businesses bottom out or fail due to an inability of the owner to master or enjoy the management piece of their enterprises.

I hear these complaints continuously in my consulting practice:

  •  “My work would be great if I didn’t have to manage people.”
  •  “The younger generation just doesn’t have the same work ethic.”
  •  “Nobody has as much passion or care about my business as much as I do.”
  • “I’m just tired of doing everything myself.”
  • “Employees always take advantage of me.”

One multi-unit business owner recently made this comment in a large workshop session, “I have been doing this for years and I just don’t trust people anymore. I have found that 9 out of 10 people will steal from you.” At the end of the workshop, he told me the session had given him new hope and he was going to try some of the workshop ideas for attracting and keeping the right kind of associates.

Fortunately, there are proven paths for getting around this type of perpetual disappointment and management torment. Small business owners are NOT doomed to “management hell”.

In the book, 7 Levers of Great Managers, the author says, “The biggest problem with management communication is the illusion that communication has occurred!”

Have you said this lately, “They should know! I shouldn’t have to hold their hand!”?

 It’s so frustrating when you tell and tell and tell, yet things are still not getting done. But, there is a simple explanation for this: we only hear what is important to us. Because the average human brain thinks at least 40,000 thoughts a day, your management message will be de-prioritized unless it is connected to either pain or pleasure. Our brains, in fact, only do things for one of two reasons, 1) to help us avoid pain or, 2) to help us experience pleasure. So, an important question we must ask ourselves:  “Is my management message connected to one or both of these things?”

One day, when I was seventeen, I went to work at 7-11 to check my schedule. Unfortunately, something was missing on that schedule…my name!  I thought it was probably a clerical error but my co-worker said, “Pam, I heard you were fired for being lazy.”

“I’m not lazy,” I quickly retorted. I was an honor student, co-editor of the yearbook, in several organizations and my mom was a workaholic who had taught her children to work hard. “There’s no way!”

My co-worker answered, “Pam, everyone knows that when customers weren’t coming in, you were always fixing your hair and reading magazines.”

“Because I was trying to look good when the customers got there!” I said, and, actually thought that was a legitimate excuse!!

Now, the manager had shown me where the broom closet and the stockroom were. And I saw her sweeping and stocking when we weren’t busy, but I was thinking that’s what managers do. Or maybe, I wasn’t thinking about it at all, because I was too busy worrying about my hair, that zit on my forehead, how I was gonna make my car payment, if I was gonna be off on Saturday night or when I was gonna get my first raise.  Why? Because, those are the things young people think about!!

If my manager wanted me to be a great worker, maybe she would have remembered the management communication illusion.  Maybe she would have said this: “Hey, Pam, you want to know how to look good here at 7-11? Do you want to know how to get your first raise? Do you want to know how to get all the hours you want and all the nights off you need?”

Would I have been listening?

Yes.  I would have said, “How?”

She would have said, “Sweep and stock. Never be idle. That’s what I’m looking for.”

And…I would have never been fired and would have swept and stocked with my whole heart!

Secret to getting what you want from your employees: find out (specifically, don’t assume) what your employees want and show them the path to get it.


Pam Boyd is an international consultant and speaker who spent twenty years in leadership and management.  She is the author of THE ESSENTIAL HANDBOOK FOR FIRST-TIME MANAGERS which is a best-seller for SkillPath Publications.