Nine Months Later

It’s been nine months since I embarked on my adventure as a small business owner. I am proud to introduce my business — my baby: Happy Dogs at McCarren Park.

Operating a dog daycare has been hard work, not only mentally having to juggle all aspects of running a business but also physically — including picking up poop and cleaning up pee. The novelty has certainly worn off. But I am glad to report, through all the ups and downs so far: I love it, absolutely.

I dove in with my whole being when I took over the store on July 1st. For the first three months, I was at the store every day, weekends included. The only exception was the day we had to close the store for Hurricane Irene. I was working 12 to 13-hour days every day. I thank BigLaw for my stamina.

The business we bought was very much a fixer-upper — with great potential. Prior to taking over, I spent weeks researching the basics of running a doggie daycare, such as obtaining the necessary business permits, acquiring adequate insurance coverage, meeting various payroll requirements, setting up reliable merchant accounts, etc. It was a long list, but I got all the ducks in a row before taking over, so I was able to put almost all of these things in place within the first week. Again, I thank BigLaw for the many Memoranda of Closing I did over the years.

Then I waded into the uncharted water of staff management. Within the first month, a couple of existing staff quit because they didn’t like my new, more professional policies, leaving me even more short-handed in a business that was already short staffed. On top of that, I had to dismiss another staff for cause. BigLaw never taught me how to fire someone or remake a team.

It was not a fun time. I was tired. In my exhaustion, I did panic once — ok, maybe twice. What did I get myself into? A doubt reared its ugly head: why am I dealing with various employee shenanigans when I could be working on some high-profile, intellectually challenging transactions and getting paid (relative) big bucks?

Fortunately, I nipped this doubt right in the bud. I was thankful of the journey I had chronicled in this blog. It was a reminder of why I quit BigLaw. I remembered theobstacles I had to conquer to become the owner of this doggie daycare, something I badly wanted.

I pushed forward, with my husband’s steadfast encouragement and advice. Through trial and error and patience, I was able to assemble a new team of staff. I now have eight members I am proud of. The whole ordeal turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I was able to instill the high standard of dog care and handling that I wanted, which probably wouldn’t have worked with the old group of staff.

Along with the high standard of dog care, I envisioned providing superior customer service, a level that would satisfy me — a customer who is highly demanding yet fair (at least I’d like to think so).

I was again in uncharted territory, not because I didn’t know how to deal with demanding clients, but because I had to rely on the performance to others.

As a lawyer, the work product of a transaction was a direct reflection of my performance, over which I had a great deal of control. Yes, I did have to rely on junior associates for certain tasks, but ultimately I could still review and correct their work product directly. Running a store is different. It is about managing different people with different skill sets to achieve a result that is dependent on work that I could only control in an indirect way. As a perfectionist control-freak, depending on others’ performance was foreign and unnerving.

I wanted us to hit the ball out of the park every single time. For instance, we forgot to return a food container to the parents when a dog was being picked. It gnawed at me for a day or so. In the beginning, I got “gnawed” often.

I quickly learned that I needed to prioritize. Certain aspects of service, such as ensuring dog safety and keeping up-to-date vaccination records, are must-haves. Other aspects, such as returning food containers, are important but secondary. We should strive to get the secondary things right each time, but the priority is on hitting every must-have out of the park.

I also learned that I had to quit trying to do everything myself. I needed to let my staff make mistakes and then learn without wanting to rescue them every time. Instead of being consumed by the “gnawings,” I started redirecting the negative energy from not having my standards met into systematic training. I know that Happy Dogs, just like a human baby, needs certain freedoms from an overprotective mother to grow. So I am learning to walk the tightrope of letting go a bit while maintaining high standards.

Last month, I had a surgery that kept me from work for an entire week. My team took care of the store in my absence without a hitch. That week seemed to go on forever and I couldn’t wait to go back to work. I realized that my desire to go back was not so much motivated by my anxiety or the need for control. Instead, I missed my staff, I missed my human clients and, above all, I missed the dogs — my dogs — looking at me with their soulful eyes happily wagging their tails at Happy Dogs.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Nine Months Later

  1. Daniel says:

    This is so great to see! I was missing your posts, yet figuring that you had been getting your business underway. May Happy Dogs at McCarren Park thrive, and make you and your husband happy and spiritually sated. This is a great landmark on your journey! (We’ve all had lots of changes lately!) Can’t wait to read more.

  2. But I Do Have a Law Degree says:

    So good to see a new post from you! And so inspirational! Congratulations on taking this leap.

  3. starfish says:

    Nice to hear from you, thank you for the update! And congratulations on your business!

  4. Lauren says:

    I just discovered your blog and LOVE it! I also left a top-tier BigLaw firm (and the practice of law) at the end of my sixth year and really see myself in so many of your posts. I have much greater balance in my life now but sometimes do miss being part of a profession and feeling like a subject matter expert. Reading your blog reminded me of the stress and lack of predictability that originally drove me away! So glad you have found your passion.

  5. Maaike says:

    Glad to hear it’s going well!!!

  6. karen says:

    Welcome to the magical madness of entrepreneurship! Sounds like your rocking it all, ups downs and inbetweens. Very happy to read this.

  7. satsumabug says:

    Congratulations! What an adventure. It was fun to read about your honest ups and downs. Keep going.

  8. Considering Leaving says:

    Awesome!!! Yay for you!

  9. Managing people is an art form.

  10. Danny says:

    Blogs like your certainly helped me. I finally quit last week after 8 years working at large firms defending large corporations in employment litigation. I decided to go solo. Some people thought (and actually told me) I was crazy. Reading your blog during breaks while working on briefs at the wee hours of the morning got me through and gave me hope. I knew I was not cut out for defending these corporations, especially when I worked for some partners who did not care for me as a human being. I admire your courage. I hope to finish out my life with the same level of courage, integrity and passion. Thank you for your blog.

  11. Mr. Reality says:

    Glad to see things really working out for you.

  12. Miranda says:

    I see you don’t monetize your page, i know how to earn some additional money
    and get more visitors using one simple method, just search in google for;
    ideas by Loocijano

  13. Lettie says:

    I see you don’t monetize your page,you can earn some extra cash, just search in google for; ideas by Loocijano

Leave a Reply