Stop working and start playing

[This article by XOXX’s Guy blaskey originally appeared in PBW News]

They say that if you find a job that you love then you will never work another day in your life.

This sentiment was backed up for me in Mark Rowlands’ latest book “Running with the Pack”. Mark Rowlands is a philosopher, runner and importantly a dog lover. Running with the Pack beautifully combines these three elements of his life. In the book he talks about the difference between work and play. Essentially play is when we do something for it’s own enjoyment, whereas work is when we do something for a ‘reward’ later on. So if we run because we enjoy it then it is play, but if we run to improve a marathon time it becomes work. If we walk our dogs for the enjoyment of walking and spending time with our dogs then it is play, but if our only motivation to walk our dogs is to stop them either getting overweight or to stop them having too much energy in the home then this becomes work.

As you can see work does not have to be for money, it is for anything where the reason for doing the activity comes later. The flip side of this is that there is no reason why play can’t pay There is a big difference between doing something for money and getting paid when you do something. Professional footballers get paid (a lot!) to play football, professional golfers get paid to play golf, but most footballers and golfers would still play golf even if they weren’t paid. Even though they do get paid it can be play, not work, depending on their motivation. If you read Matthew Syed’s “Bounce”, about talent in sport you will see that it is the players that play more as kids for love of the game itself who generally end up being the ones that end up making the most money on the sports field. Play pays.

I think that this is particularly relevant to the pet trade because so many people get into the trade because of their love of animals. They love spending time with animals and interacting with both animals and their owners. This can be play, not work and it can pay. However it’s all too easy to end up on a career path where being at work is all work and no play.

In my view this is part of the problem that the high street pet shop is suffering from. Many failing high street shops exist for work, to sell mundane, mass-market products to people who don’t know any better and who don’t care. This may have worked 20 years ago, but now if consumers want mundane, mass-market products they will get them online or at Tesco. There is little or no reason to make a trip to a high street store for these products.

However, a new breed of pet shop owners does seem to be emerging. Knowledgeable pet shop owners who care about pets, who want to spend time with pets and their owners. People who enjoy researching what products are good for different animals, learning about animals and who enjoy sharing this knowledge with other people. In my view these pet shop owners and their employees represent the future of the high street. Not only do they offer the kind of service, enthusiasm and knowledge that drives customer loyalty, they are more likely to engage in social media – making videos that customers will watch, interacting with customers and potential customers on facebook, twitter, instagram, vine etc. This marketing is not just about getting sales, it is about sharing knowledge and this doesn’t just get you customers who buy, it gets you customers who are loyal and who recommend you to others.

So this is my challenge to struggling high street pet stores; Hire people that love pets, hire people that see everything to do with pets as play instead of work and then pay them to play. If you have a young employee who loves being on facebook and youtube working in your store stacking the shelves you are wasting their time and your money. Stack the shelves yourself and get them onto youtube and facebook and let them ‘play’ with your marketing. They can probably do this better than you… and you can probably stack shelves better than them!

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