What My Cats Taught Me About Business

©2013 Wendy Scheuring

I was working the other day, trying to finish a project for a client when my long-haired Tuxedo cat Blackie plopped down on my feet. I was focusing intently on the words on my screen and not on the 20-some pounds of quite possibly the most affectionate cat in all of kitty-dom. The ability to take rejection is not one of Blackie’s strong suits, so he responded by stepping up his game.

He kneaded my toes. He stretched out. He communicated his desire to close the deal with a gentle, concise meow that expressed his sincere need to connect with me.

I didn’t give in and stayed work-focused. But, finally, he did his signature roll-over backwards, all the while keeping a keen eye on me. So, I did what any cat lover would do, I caved. I picked him up—no small feat, I might add—and put him in my lap.

PURRR. Kitty Nirvana. He’d achieved his goal. My cat has entertained me and my family with his cool cat skills and in return, we give him, well, cat love and affection. With Blackie in my lap, I started typing away again; then, I made an interesting connection between my cats and my business. My cats were actually geniuses when it came to relationships:

Ten NOs get you to the YES you are seeking: As described earlier, did Blackie quit at the first NO? Nope. He rubbed against my leg, he meowed, he purred. Persistence pays off.

Bend over backwards for your clients: While few of us can compete with Blackie’s ability to elevate bending over backwards to an art form, any good business person will work hard to delight his or her clients. However, there is a subtlety that Blackie seems to have that makes his act of bending over even more delightful. He keeps his eye on the client. It’s as if he were saying, “Look at how I am striving to delight you even more.” When we communicate the message, quietly, that we are striving to delight, we show our clients that we genuinely care about them.

Purr a little:  We humans are needy. My cats have taught me that. It’s a cold world out there, and all of us need a little loving, a little affirmation, a little caring. Sales people know this all too well, and they jump on this universal need sometimes like a dog—they jump on you, lick your face, wag their tails (dogs, not sales people). But, cats purr. I’ve seen a little 2-oz. kitten purr a man’s heart to its melting point as he was petting it with his index finger. That’s some serious business power packed in a little 2-oz. ball of fur. Our challenge is to purr a little for our clients, to show them affirmation and caring.

Remember, people dig cool cats, man:  Each of my three cats (Make sure to stay tuned for my upcoming blog on what defines a “Cat Lady”) have very different personalities and ways of getting things done. But there’s one trait they share:  Individually, they each possess a very high cool factor. I don’t know how to describe this; I just know that it works. People just dig cool cats. I suspect that if you read this, and get it, you already have a high degree of cool—and the lesson is to just remember the lesson. Cool is a business attribute, a trait to which people (a.k.a. clients) are attracted to like bugs to a light.

Think outside the box:  Have I ever mentioned that I absolutely loathe meaningless clichés? I absolutely do, and that “think outside the box” has got to be one I hate the most. But, I will say that my cats taught me a genuine, meaningful business application of truly thinking outside the box.

I have a screened-in pool enclosure for my pool. And, because of the Florida weather being what it is, I get to spend a lot of time out there on the patio. My cats also share my penchant for being outside on the patio, protected from bad critters and the occasional flying vermin.

I “rescued” these cats from a swampy area in a land called East Texas. Mark claims I cat-napped them. Whatever. My point is that I rescued three lovely cats from packs of yapping dogs and owls looking for dinner.  But, as the saying goes, “You can take the cats out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the cats!”

When poolside chillin’ no longer suits them, it’s time for them to break out! They mosey around the edge until they find a spot and–voila!—they make a door (a.k.a. hole) where there was none. I am constantly sewing shut and blocking off previous “doors” in my screens—we do have rules here, you know!—but to little or no avail. The take away is that when they want out, and there is no apparent way out, then they break out. We need to look at our businesses that way:  Sometimes we like our little boxes of protection, our rules, our comfort, and we often justify our reluctance to break out because there’s no door. My cats have taught me there’s always “a door.”

Lock onto your goal and run after it and do not be deterred:  Remember that country cats in the city theme? Well, my suburban kitties go to great lengths to shake the civilized moniker and prove that a country-cat can survive… They hunt, and too often bring me trophies as proof that they still have mad cat skills, despite my efforts to civilize them. How and where they catch everything from lizards to mice to bunnies, I don’t really know. But, I did witness it once—at first to my alarm, but then with great interest.

I was out searching for Tiger kitty and found her, but stopped as I saw her stalking something. I froze as I watched, peering, but seeing nothing. Then almost simultaneously, a rabbit leaped up and Tiger kitty sprang like a heat-seeking missile. It was Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom in real time. The rabbit darted and sprinted, but Tiger was right there. I didn’t know who to cheer for, but it was amazing—and Tiger was FAST!  I ran over and Tiger kitty let me have the bunny. It seemed relatively unscathed and I released it. Tiger seemed cool with it, as she was pretty nonplussed about the whole ordeal. She’d won; game over. But during the hunt, she was a different animal—more like her namesake than a domesticated house cat. The lesson she taught me was to be patient in the hunt, relentless in pursuit, and keep a laser-like focus on a fast-moving target.

Chill a little:  After a day of pursuits, break-outs, bending over to delight clients, we all have to just be chill. My cats have this down to a science. Even in our everyday workings and growing our business, we still need to enjoy our work, our clients, our mates, and our lives every day, throughout the day.

Give back to the community:  Now if I know anything about our readership, we have some smart folks wondering how cats can teach us about giving back to the community. I mean really, we all pretty much know that cats could really give a rat’s (intentional pun) patoodie about giving back to their communities.

Well, it’s in their frequent returns where they unwittingly give back. Whenever I have visitors, whether it’s a plumber repairing a toilet, or my friend’s kids coming over for a writing lesson, my cats are right there in the action.  They’re very curious about who is popping over and they make sure that they are part of the social group.

My point is that my cats never wrote a check or picked up trash on the beach, or built a suspension bridge in a third world country; but, in their way, with their own cool cat gifts, in their home playground, they make people smile. No headlines. No accolades. No treats. Our kitty takeaway should be obvious—in our business and in our lives–we should all be doing little things that put a little pep in someone else’s step, a little warmth in someone else’s heart, and a smile on someone else’s face, wherever, and whenever we can.

©Wendy Scheuring, 2013