No, I’m not talking about how many OTCH’s you have personally trained. I’m talking about how you present yourself and your business to the public. Although as youngsters we’re taught not to “judge a book by its cover,” the facts are most people do. First impressions are often the ONLY chance you get to impress a potential client. Dog trainers/obedience instructors historically have not had the best reputations for professional appearance.
Is your personal hygiene up to par or does your hair look like it needed a trim a couple of weeks ago or a wash a couple of days ago? A missing or damaged tooth not only looks bad, but can create halitosis which no client will appreciate. Are your clothes clean, neat, pressed and of a conservative style from THIS century? Even though we work with animals, ragged blue jeans, stained t-shirts and scuffed sneakers shouldn’t be our “uniform” unless it’s only to clean the kennels. Think about providing yourself and your staff with good quality polo shirts, custom embroidered with your company logo. Or instead of custom embroidery, engraved plastic name tags can be an acceptable low-cost alternative. Not only will this enhance your professional image, but it also serves as (1) advertising for your business, and (2) makes your staff easily identifiable to new students.
Your demeanor also figures in this respectability and credibility issue. Do you arrive late at your client’s home in a dirty vehicle, your “tools of the trade” in an old canvas bag with one strap missing and a broken zipper, or do you show up promptly, briefcase in hand? If you want your client to respect you and your advice, you must look and act respectable and professional!
How do you answer your business’s telephone? Do you articulate clearly and politely? If you must put a client “on hold,’ don’t leave them waiting too long. Remember, their business or potential business pays the rent! If the interruption will take longer than one minute to deal with., ask your caller if you may call them back shortly, then by all means follow through. Is the tape on your answering machine worn out, or is the machine itself ready for electronic heaven? Don’t use overly long or “cutesy” messages either -people these days don’t have time-to waste listening to litanies of “doggie” anecdotes. Never use profanity, “off-color” words, or slang terms in your discussions with clients. Don’t get too familiar or informal with your clients -keep this a business relationship, at least initially, if you smoke, never practice your habit in a client’s home, during a consultation, or while instructing group classes. If you imbibe alcohol, NEVER do so before or during instruction or any appearance in public in which you are representing your business or profession. Don’t fool yourself into thinking a swish of mouth wash or breath mint will coverup the smell of alcohol on your breath -IT WON’T and you will have lost any hope of making a favorable impression on your students.
Facilities where animals are trained are subjected to a lot of hard use/abuse. Is it past time for yours to have a new coat of paint or even just a real good, deep-down cleaning? Fecal material and the odor of urine definitely detract from one’s professional image. Are the grounds neat and well-manicured or do they look weedy and like they’ve seen better days? Is your equipment held together with tape and bubble-gum -obviously sorely in need of repair, replacement or cleaning? What about your printed materials? Are you handing out copies of copies of copies of old typewritten materials? If so, invest a modest amount in computer desktop publishing and redo your materials -it will work wonders for the image of your business.
Most of these suggestions don’t require a lot of money to implement. but they do take effort. Just as we should all see our doctors and dentists at least once a year for a checkup, give yourself, your staff, and all aspects of your business a checkup. It will do you good!
©1992 Missy Parker, RVT (Masterson-Hale)