Friday, August 12, 2011

When a potential client isn't a good match

I received a call the other day from a very nice woman seeking my private dog training services for her new puppy.  After talking a bit I learned that they keep the pup outside all the time and make it sleep in a crate in the garage.  It's never allowed in the house. 

I was immediately concerned, and after talking about this with her I decided to refer her to another trainer.  There's nothing criminal in her decision but this is not close enough to my philosophy about dogs to make it likely that taking her on as a client would have the kind of outcome I seek with my clients.  I was very polite about it, and referred her to another very good trainer who was delighted to get the referral. 

The truth is that there's a bit of an art in finding the right fit between training instructor and student.  My ideal client is a smart, fairly well educated person who is interested in having a very close relationship with their dog (which to me means having the dog be an integral part of the family, living in the house), and who has high aspirations for their dog's behavior. 

I think we trainers sometimes look for clients who are just like ourselves.  I know that's not realistic.  But my heart sings when I meet someone who follows through with my reading recommentations, and who catches that spark of enthusiasm about operant conditioning and what it can do for their life with their dog. 

In my case, I'm on a hiatus from teaching classes (which I'm quite sad about, but I am leading a large software implementation project and am working 13+ hours a day, so cannot commit to the time and energy it takes to run a dog training class right now the way I like to run them!).  What little time I do have for teaching is limited to private clients.  So I do have to ensure that each client is a really good fit before agreeing to start working together. 

This need to be clear on the ideal client profile is true of all professional service providers.  Physicians, attorneys, CPAs, contractors... they all have a certain profile of client that they just love working with.  These kind of partnerships literally glow with success.

I'm happy to refer clients to other trainers when I'm either too busy to help them or if I suspect we may not be the best fit for each other.  My priority is to ensure that they are still referred to a competent clicker training instructor, not someone who's going to recommend a choke chain or prong collar. 

I cherish my clients, and literally consider myself their lifelong dog coach.  I pour myself into them, and get a sense of joy and satisfaction from their success that is difficult to describe. 

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