• Advice

Dog day afternoon

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I was bitten by a dog this week.

Not seriously and, given the circumstances, I don’t expect to be foaming at the mouth anytime soon.

And, in the dog’s defense, it was mostly my fault.

I was visiting my client Paul at his office Monday afternoon. As we were exchanging greetings, I was happily surprised to see a smallish, black dog stroll by.

I’m a big fan of clothing-free workspaces and so I leaned over to scratch him (the dog, not Paul).

He seemed to like it, so I did what I always do with my dog: I put my face right up to his while scratching him behind both ears.

In hindsight, pretty dumb with a dog I didn’t know. But still fine.

In fact it wasn’t until about ten minutes later, when the dog walked through our meeting and I put my hand out, that he nipped my arm.

Nothing terrible, but enough to leave a couple of marks, right through my heavy sweater.

That’s when the obvious finally dawned on me: Not all dogs are the same.

My dog Abbie, for example, is not the least bit aggressive.

You can pull on her ears; play tug of war with her favorite toy; insert your favorite child and/or body part in her mouth, and she will make no move to harm you.

And so over the past 10+ years of living with Abbie, I’ve literally let my guard down around all dogs, resulting in Monday’s incident. (Note to Paul: You will be hearing from my attorney.)

One bright spot, though: It woke me up regarding my business.

Here’s what I mean…

Over the past 15 years working as a solo, I’ve come to do things a certain way.

I have a consistent approach to the way I write proposals, organize my web site, market my products, invoice my clients, package my services, publish my newsletter, etc.… most of which haven’t changed – or even been thought about – for years.
There’s some efficiency in this, of course; you’ll never get anything done if you have to reinvent everything, every day.

But, like a man who’s come to treat every dog the same – regardless of size, type or circumstance – there’s a cost to the “that’s the way we do it around here” tunnel vision that I’ve developed.

It means I overlook potential improvements; ignore new opportunities; and continue to do things that, while they may have once made perfect sense, no longer do.

And that’s why I’ve decided that I will no longer bite visitors to my office.

Not only that, I will focus on reinventing the way I do business, with a particular emphasis on breaking old patterns and seeking new, previously ignored, opportunities.

I expect to get more done, earn more money and increase my overall work satisfaction. I’m kind of looking forward to my new adventure too.

Michael Katz is a Boston-based marketing consultant and founder of Blue Penguin Development. He specializes in helping professional service firms stand out from the pack by positioning them as Likeable Experts. Get a free copy of his report, "The Professional Service Provider's Essential Reading List - 11 Recommended Business(ish) Books," here:

Michael Katz Michael Katz is the founder of Blue Penguin Development, where he helps professional service firms talk about their work. Sign up for his free newsletter, The Likeable Expert Gazette, above.

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