After Maria Perez wrote 7 Business Lessons From Your Dog, I decided we cat lovers needed a response post! Cats rule, dogs drool.
Anyone who has ever had a cat can tell you they've learned a lot from their furry friend: an appreciation for the simple luxuries in life, the coziness of a warm spot in the sun, the beauty of the never-ending nap, the value of unconditional companionship. But our kitties can teach us a few lessons that translate into the business world too.
1. Wait for Genuine Relationships to Develop
My kitties, Fidel and Dolly, who are brother and sister, were abandoned by their previous owner at the SPCA just before Christmas, when they were about 1 year old. I adopted the munchkins on Valentine's Day (awwww) in 2011. When I first brought them home, they were terrified. For months after that, Fidel and Dolly would run away if anyone made eye contact or moved too suddenly. Petting them wasn't even a consideration, as they would never let you get close enough to try. This was, of course, frustrating -- I wanted them to be content and comfortable kitties!
It took about a year of consistent kindness for them to get fully accustomed to me, and the payoff for my patience has been huge! Now the kitties love to be pet (they even demand pets sometimes by bumping me with their heads) and snuggle up next to me while I'm sleeping.
Trust is an essential component of a successful business relationship. And knowing that a business is dependable -- that they won't abandon you -- is the result of positive interactions over time. Building business relationships might take longer than you expect, but authentic and worthwhile relationships won't happen overnight.
2. Inspire Loyalty
Although my cats are very friendly with anyone and everyone (they never turn down a nice hand or a warm lap), they are also well aware of who feeds them, changes their litter box and picks ticks out of their fur. I get more love from them than anyone else does! They always come to me first for snuggles.
Customers will be loyal to your business if you treat them well and offer quality products and/or services. If you genuinely care about the people supporting your business, they'll come back often, buy more and even bring in other customers. Retention is essential for business success, so take care of your patrons!
3. Don't Seem Desperate
Ancient Egyptians believed cats were gods -- and it's easy to see why. Unlike dogs, who adore their owners unquestioningly and subserviently, cats clearly believe that you are the pet/servant and they are the owner/monarch. But this is actually why cats are so great: they're independent and clever! As every cat owner knows, just because you want to pet your kitty at a certain moment, does not mean that they too are in the mood to cuddle. But this standoffishness only makes you want to pet them more. That's because smart kitties use reverse psychology to get what they want in the end. Because by the time they've let you pet them, you think they are doing you a favor!
When trying to attract customers to your business, desperation is a major turnoff. Don't be too overbearing with messages like "Visit our website!" or "Buy now!" Those phrases seem too obvious and unoriginal -- of course a customer can visit your website or buy now (hopefully). Posting constant messages on social networks also seems desperate and will merely annoy customers and end up pushing them away.
4. Channel Your Killer Instinct
To us, cats seem like cute and cuddly fur balls who mew adorably for catnip. But to the squirrels and birds in my neighborhood, watching one of my cats slink out of the house with narrowed eyes and twitching tail is probably like us watching the grim reaper sharpen his scythe. Outside of the house, my loveable kitties are bird slayers, squirrel assassins and chipmunk murderers, who leave little adorably gruesome "presents" for me on the front porch.
I'm not saying you should murder your customers (that would be really, really bad for business), but there's something to be learned from how a cat pinpoints their prey, stalks it, and goes in for the kill without hesitation. Determine your business goals, and then go after them with force and focus.
5. Check in With Those Who Feed You
Cat's independent and curious natures mean that sometimes when you let them outside they'll disappear for a little while to do their own thing (squirrels beware!). After a few hours, it might seem like they don't love you as much as you thought and they're never coming back -- but then they always show up eventually. That's because cats know where home is; they know where food, shelter and love can be found -- with you!
Know who your customers are and who's keeping your business afloat, and then check in with them periodically. Every business wants new customers, but don't forget about the old ones! It will differentiate you from your competition and confirm their decision to buy from you, so be proactive.
6. Stand Out From the Crowd
Cats are unique individuals. I've never met two cats that seemed similar; their characters vary as much as people's personalities. My male cat, Fidel, is timid, affectionate and undemanding. My female cat, Dolly, on the other hand, is daring, mischievous and playful. When I'm looking for a warm companion to nap with, I seek out Fidel. When I'm looking for a pal to kill a spider, I seek out Dolly.
Make sure your business is somehow unique from its competition, whether that's great customer service, a one-of-a-kind product or stellar deals. Whatever you do, make your mark and articulate those exclusive capabilities concretely to your customers.
7. Don't Get Distracted
My cats love when I switch on the laser pointer and let them chase the red dot around the house. They could probably do it for hours (although it's bad for their eyesight to let them do it any longer than five minutes). But the red dot isn't real!
Don't let the small stuff distract you when it comes to your business goals. The red dot is just an illusion of something worthwhile! It's hard to decide what to next sometimes, or when to decide to do nothing at all. It's easy to spread your business efforts too thin and lose sight of what's most important. So whether your goal is customer service, quality products, company impact or something else, make a decision about what matters and then don't waste your time on dead-ends.
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