For years, I was a very successful member of corporate America. I was a vice president of sales for media monitoring, media intelligence, social media, and market research companies. My sales and service teams performed well and, even during a recession, met unnecessarily ridiculous goals. I survived big mergers and was part of the management team for heavy layoffs, and I was often both the youngest and only woman in a meeting. I was good at my job.
Sales is horrible. You are constantly told that you are only as good as your last deal, and a big win gets you a “congrats” right before a “what is closing in your pipeline this week?” The money is good. I’ll give it that. Thank goodness, since you need a good amount of cash to pay the pharmacy, doctor, therapist, and liquor store.
And as it turns out, all those years making money for the man taught me a few skills, even ones I can use as a dog sitter! Corporate America and a pack of pups aren’t really that different.
Here are a few skills that can be used in either world:
1. Sleeping anywhere
At the end of my career, I was on the road. I had no time to waste an entire day on travel, so I learned to sleep on planes. It’s a great skill if you have the time to perfect it.
Here is what I suggest for mastering this skill. If need be, change into comfy travel clothes in an airport bathroom stall. Then, once on the plane, get a seat by the window, wrap a giant scarf around your nose and mouth, position a set of noise-canceling headphones over your ears, put on an oversized hoodie that goes down far enough to shade your eyes, place the Kindle on your lap — just for show — and settle in for some Zzzs. Of course, you can pop some Tylenol PM or throw back a glass of wine, but those kinds of crutches are for amateurs.
If you can sleep in the crowded space of the economy section of a United Airlines flight, sleeping with a half-dozen dogs is a breeze! A dog head against your cheek, a bum against yours, and a paw in your stomach is no problem. The same general steps apply. Hunker down, cover your head, and learn to be comfortably compact!
2. Ignoring bullies
Everyone knows the worst part of any salesman’s life is a heckler. In an office presentation, this guy is usually the young kid sitting right by the big boss, with his only goal being to make himself look good. Since he is working off fear and insecurity, the way he is going to achieve this is by taking you down.
How do you stop a heckler? You ignore him. Refocus the answers to his questions, at least the ones worth answering, to others at the table. Heap praise on everyone BUT him. He will learn quickly that he has to play nice if he wants to be part of the conversation.
This works for dogs, too! Do you know the best way to get a Chihuahua to like you? Ignore him! I once took in a troubled young dog who made a very big production of hating me, hating my pack, and wanting nothing more than to kill us with his tiny little teeth. I stuck him in a crate at the end of my hall. I only paid attention to him to take him out to go to the bathroom or hand over some food. After 24 hours, I opened the door but continued paying no attention to him. Within the next 24 hours, he was in my lap while we watched TV; he slept with me, played with the pack, and was all of our BFFs.
Just ignore the bullies, and they will figure out they have to be nice for attention!
3. Never letting them see you cry
Any female executive worth her weight has learned tricks to keep from crying in the office. Look up and to the left, do math in your head, jab your fingernails into the palm of your hand, take long controlled breaths, or just take a Xanax. Whatever works, you use it, and you DO NOT let them see you cry.
Being pegged as “emotional” can hurt you in the corporate world. It can hurt you even more when you are in charge of a rowdy pack. Sure, the CEO can scream at you in front of you peers and refuse to call you anything but Wednesday (it happened), but if you lose your cool with a pack of dogs someone is headed to the emergency room.
Dogs feed off emotions, and many times I have found myself in a situation where keeping calm was mandatory — a pup runs away into the night, two dogs get into a vicious fight, I get bit while trying to leash up a pup.
In all of these situations, I want to just sit down on the floor and sob like a baby, but I can’t. I have to remain zen; the tips I learned in the office work in the dog park, too.
4. Getting everyone to perform for treats
I know where you can purchase yummy cookies by the dozen in all of my old sales markets. If you bring treats, not only will people come to your meetings, but they will be nice to you.
When the crazies hit the pups and I’ve had enough, I grab a handful of delicious goodies and command, “Sit!” The dogs stop in their tracks, bums hit the floor, and I have their undivided attention!
5. Never putting bad news in writing
“Don’t put bad news in writing” was one of my main directives to my sales and service team. You can’t control the tone, you can’t hear voice inflection, or see body language in the response. You aren’t able to control the message and how it’s perceived or determine what level of trouble you are in so you can respond appropriately.
Although I’ve had great experiences with dog sitting, putting a group of dogs together means someone is going to get hurt at some point. I’ve had to be the bearer of bad news while running a pup to the vet. I don’t let anyone else talk to the owners before I do. I make the call myself so I can personally let them know everything is being handled with love and care and that their pup is my top priority. Emailing that message just wouldn’t work.
The parallels between the inhabitants of an office and my current furry clients is clear. They are all animals, but with the right skills, they can be tamed!
What skills do you find yourself using with both humans and your dogs? Let us know in the comments!
Read more about Wendy’s life with Riggins: