Believe or not, the second model was actually less expensive than the usual practice. More important, our dogs finished faster, allowing Cathy the luxury of better planning about when dogs were actually ready to go into the ring. She had always care- fully planned breedings; generally looking three years out to think about what she hoped to get for a particular breeding. Next, we started finishing seven to ten dogs per year, instead of two or three. That gave us a larger pool of champions and expanded the opportunities for breeding our own dogs in the future. Cathy now typi- cally has ten bitches in the queue for breeding, allowing her to plan what the optimum time and best stud will give us what we want for competition. We also began to look at market- ing, beginning with our web site AviatorKennel.com . We had had a perfectly suitable static website as do most small businesses. What we did not have what a “portal”, that is, a large up-to-date website that offers a huge amount of information about us, the dogs, the kennel, PWDs, shows, health links and articles. We started to think about advertising and devel- oping better links and contacts with our owners, our customers. As with any business, your customers are your best source of positive marketing and sales. A happy owner walking around San Francisco with an Aviator dog is your best billboard. An owner in- vited to attend a dog show with you and watch as their pup wins a ribbon is very happy, indeed. At some of the big shows like the Golden Gate show in San Francisco, we started bring- ing as many as 17 dogs for competi- tion and nearly 30 owners there for the party. With a formal set-up thirty feet wide with banners, photos, dogs on the bench and owners, Aviator pre- sented our best face forward to the 20,000 people that attend that show every year. Even with the move to the next level, we still weren’t fully prepared for what it takes to be a great show own- er, prepared and willing to advance a unique dog like Ladybug. We had to
SO… WHAT IS A GREAT SHOW OWNER? Once we got married and I was fully committed to the life of dogs and shows I began to look at the business of pedigreed dogs and the world they live in. From my legal and business back- ground, as well as a stint as an CAO of a web development start up before the Internet bubble burst, I started to sort out some of the variables of the com- petition. Ever the statistician, I looked at the numbers comparing what it cost to show your own dogs every weekend, traveling all over the west coast com- peting with professional handlers and dealing with the vagaries of competi- tion judging. I noticed that hardly anybody did any real marketing of their kennels, dogs, expertise or reputation. It was so, well, casual and civilized, or so I first thought. I began to realize that be- neath all of this calm veneer of polite applause as dogs won in the ring was a caldron of fierce combat. Cathy won far more than other competing breed- ers, but she didn’t win best of breeds all the time, much less group and best in show wins. One of my first sugges- tions, carefully presented to the ex- pert was that going to dog shows con- stantly and showing your own dogs wasn’t cost effective. I had quietly compiled and compared two business models for the competi- tions. The first one was the way most people show their dogs; just as Cathy had done for years. The other model moved to a different level. At that level you hired a regular professional handler, carefully planned which dog show offered the most promise, judges and points, managed which dogs were going to compete when and developed goals and benchmarks to monitor success. In this model, you had the handler show all of your dogs except for those in bred by exhibi- tor or very young class dogs. Instead of going to shows constantly, we sent our dogs to show every weekend with the handler. We were going to shows in places like Monterey and let the handler go to Bakersfield (no offense to Bakersfield!).
AS WITH ANY BUSINESS, YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE YOUR BEST SOURCE OF POSITIVE MAR- KETING AND SALES. A HAPPY OWNER WALKING AROUND SAN FRANCISCO WITH AN AVIATOR DOG IS YOUR BEST BILLBOARD.
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T op N otch T oys , O ctober 2021 • 35
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