Strategic marketing consultant and canine behaviourist Natalie Weller-Cliff tells us why she decided to set up her own marketing consultancy as a community interest company, what got her into canine behaviour and how she combines the two businesses.
Natalie Weller-Cliff of Dogs Like Yours
Website: Dogs Like Yours
Natalie’s interest in canine behaviour came about when her own ‘dream dog’ Alfie turned nightmare. The vet called him ‘nasty’ and Natalie thought he would have to be put down. But she had faith in him. Through working with experts, practical training and a foundation degree level qualification with the IMDTB, she developed her knowledge of canine behaviour modification. She learnt too that Alfie was just as frightened as Natalie, and they worked on rebuilding their confidence and life together.
Natalie has always been into behaviour – what makes us tick. Graduating from Cambridge University she went into marketing, managing some of the biggest behaviour change campaigns in modern society and co-founding her own agency, Social and Local. She also studied NLP to Master Practitioner level.
Even though Natalie now works professionally with dogs, she will always remember what it feels like to be at the other end of the leash when it’s all going wrong.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- How you can create your perfect job and working environment by founding your own business
- The importance of credibility vs lip-service when presenting a particular image
- How the reaction of others can serve as a guide to who you want to work with
- How it can almost become inevitable that a hobby becomes a business
- Why working for free is often not valued and how people feel committed when they spend some money and a relationship is reciprocal
- The value of just standing up and doing it rather than sitting and planning what you’re going to do
Resources mentioned in this episode
Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase. This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.
- Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme
- Book: What Color Is Your Parachute, Richard N. Bolles
- Community Interest Companies information page
- Book: StrengthsFinder 2.0, Tom Rath
- Episode 28: Quitting a job to earn passive income – with Jacques Hopkins
To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.
Episode 42: Behaviour change, marketing and going to the dogs! - with Natalie Weller-Cliff of Dogs Like Yours
Jeremy Cline 0:00
I'm Jeremy Cline and this is Change Work Life.
Jeremy Cline 0:18
Hello and welcome to Change Work Life, the show that's all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. This week we're talking to Natalie Weller-Cliff, who is the founder of two businesses. She has Social and Local which is a marketing agency and also Dogs like Yours in which she helps owners of dogs with behavioural issues, overcome those issues. In this interview, we talk about why and how Natalie decided to do marketing a little bit differently from the way it has been done before, and how she's managed to build in social enterprise into the DNA of the company, whilst also balancing two different businesses. Here's the interview with Natalie Weller-Cliff.
Jeremy Cline 0:58
Hi, Natalie. Welcome to the Change Work Life podcast.
Natalie Weller-Cliff 1:01
Jeremy Cline 1:02
Can you start off by telling us a bit about what you do? I gather that you've got two things going on at the moment.
Natalie Weller-Cliff 1:07
Yes, I have two things. They're both linked by behaviour. One human, one dog. So I am a strategic marketing consultant and I specialise in behaviour change campaigns. So the kinds of campaigns where rather than selling stuff, which you'd normally have in marketing, it's more about changing unhealthy habits. So things like change for life where you're trying to address issues around childhood obesity, so that's one side of my life. And the other side of my life is canine behaviour. So working with dogs that have problems that owners are finding difficult to deal with - helping owners and dogs to change that problem behaviour into something more manageable.
Jeremy Cline 1:53
Wow. Okay. And these are both your own businesses at the moment?
Natalie Weller-Cliff 1:57
Yes, I founded the marketing one. With a former colleague of mine I think eight years ago now and the canine behaviour business, I was doing informally for a while and turned it into a business last year.
Jeremy Cline 2:13
So let's talk about how you got to running your own marketing business. What was your background before you started doing business? Presumably you were working in marketing before that?
Natalie Weller-Cliff 2:22
Yeah, I was I was. I started in advertising in an agency in London. Very typical work in a London ad agency. So lots of fun, lots of variety, but also lots of long hours, very long commute, early in on the train, late back quite often, needing to stay either to work on projects that you know, needed to go off to print or later into digital and lots of entertaining and things like that as well. That was my start and my life for most of my 20s and into my 30s. A typical office job, very full on.
Jeremy Cline 3:03
How did you get into that in the first place? Was this your first thing out of university?
Natalie Weller-Cliff 3:06
It wasn't actually. Out of uni, I did two things - I fell back on a skill I had already which was teaching. I'd lived in Germany as a teenager and made some quite good money on the side teaching English as a foreign language with the bonus that I was English speaking, so it seemed a bit of a win-win way of earning a bit of extra cash. I enjoyed teaching, and I'd done a year abroad. I did a languages degree and I'd done a year abroad teaching in Germany, in my third year, teaching in a German high school. And so when I left uni, I combined that ability with a lifelong passion for wanting to live in Japan. And I went out to Japan and I taught for a year in a Japanese high school with a scheme called the JET scheme, the Japanese English exchange I think it, is English teacher exchange that is run by the British Council. And that takes graduates from the UK, from Australia, from the States and from Canada, and places them in Japanese schools. So a very different start!
Jeremy Cline 4:10
How did you get into marketing after that then?
Natalie Weller-Cliff 4:12
So I came back from a very exciting year in Japan and felt like I didn't want to do school, uni, school - that I wanted to try office life and do something different. But that's really as far as my thinking was. I just had a sense that I wanted to do something else rather than go straight into teaching. I mean, that would have been probably the more logical move for me at that point. I read a book, which is an oldie but goodie, if you've heard of it, but it's called What Colour is Your Parachute?
Jeremy Cline 4:40
I have heard of it, yes.
Natalie Weller-Cliff 4:41
It's quite a famous one. At the time it really helped me. I worked through it quite systematically. It encourages you to plot out not only what you think you might like to do from a skills point of view, but to think about where you want to work and what size of business, what you'd like to be earning in the sort of near and distant future - and it kept pointing me towards advertising as a job that was a good way of combining my skills in terms of creativity - I like to do things like art and drawing, but also a sort of business sense and an interest in a more business-like environment. So it was that that drew me into advertising. Then I was a bit stuck because I didn't really know how to get into advertising and what to do, and I didn't have any skills in that area. And long story short, my sister got me a job, serving cocktails to my future boss, and I basically talked my way into a job as a PA in his company, because that was the only job going at the time and on the agreement I do a year as his PA and then he'd let me have a go at being an account executive in the advertising team, and that's what happened.
Jeremy Cline 5:58
Okay, and you went from there to staying as an account executive?
Natalie Weller-Cliff 6:04
Yes. So I stuck with the advertising for a few years in a traditional sense, so selling things from books to whiskey and everything in between. It was a varied job, quite pressured, but it was varied, but I was beginning to get a sense of being quite unfulfilled just flogging stuff. Unusually for somebody who works in brand I wasn't always that interested in the brands in that a lot of people would go cock a hoop for the chance to work with - Nike or something - and I was a bit like, okay, but you know, flogging trainers! So I was already on the lookout for something else. And I started a job with a company who did this early days of this behaviour change marketing, but it wasn't really recognised as such at the time and we were asked to work on this campaign that the Government Department of Health at the time was planning to reverse the tide of childhood obesity, that was the objective. That was the beginning of discovering something a little more fulfilling for me in terms of the marketing side in that I discovered this whole behaviour change world and that I could use my skills in marketing to help people to be healthier or fitter. I worked on all sorts of campaigns actually, anti-smoking, promoted apprenticeships currently, because it's something I still enjoy very much promoting, healthier eating and safer eating practices with the Food Standards Agency. So I found a way out of just promoting things and more into this behaviour change. And in parallel, I did a self-funded course in NLP - neuro linguistic programming - and coaching and found that really complementary. It's very helpful actually to have that skill on top of the behaviour change comms side of things.
Jeremy Cline 7:53
So you're still working in London at this point for an agency, albeit one that deals with the change campaigns?
Natalie Weller-Cliff 7:59
Yes. Still working in London. Then the old itchy feet again! So I was enjoying the behaviour change work, I wasn't so much enjoying being in an office. The commute by this time was beginning to grind, you know, standing on the 7:18 train into London every day, I'm not that tall - generally armpit height - so didn't really enjoy sort of being squished up against people for a good 30 minutes into London. And there were other things that were beginning to niggle, one of them was actually that I wanted a dog, and I couldn't do that when I was doing the hours that I was doing in London. It came to a bit of a crisis point at the place that I was working - not untypical for my industry. There was a bit of a budget hole, a lot of people were let go. I wasn't one of them. But I wasn't particularly happy remaining in the situation that I was. And so that's when, with a colleague who had been let go, I decided to launch my own business with her and it is a marketing or mar comms consultancy, but we launched it as something a little bit different. We launched it as a social enterprise. So it's a community interest company, which means that by law, redistribute 50% of our profit to a social cause,
Jeremy Cline 9:15
And what social causes have benefited from that so far?
Natalie Weller-Cliff 9:19
So over the years, we put it towards a number of different community projects. But in the last few years, we've focused on mental health in the advertising and marketing industry. From personal experience and some of the things I've been talking about, you know, the long hours rather than flexible hours, dare I say a bit of a bullying culture in advertising, and that was sort of playing on our minds. It's an industry as well that is very difficult for people to remain in if they are parents and have childcare responsibilities or if they're a carer and have responsibilities at home again, because of the hours. We have more recently focused our efforts on a campaign that we are running alongside the government communications services, which is called Brilliant Creative Minds, and it's about addressing the avoidable stresses that are inherent within our industry at the moment, and that damage people's potential to be creative. With Brilliant Creative Minds we're looking at those poor behaviours that cause problems for people that stress them out, that make it hard for them to stay in the job and to be good at their job, to be creative. And we're working systematically with other agencies, with clients, with procurement to address those problem behaviours and try to do something about them so people can be happier at work - because you really have to be happy to be creative in the main. So yeah, that's what we've put out our time and funding to over the last few years.
Jeremy Cline 10:47
So go back to this time where people have been let go, but you're not one of them. What were you looking for at the time that led you to effectively starting your own agency? What were some of the alternatives that you considered rather than going down that route?
Natalie Weller-Cliff 11:03
So the alternative was leaving the industry, which felt like a little bit of a waste at the time having built up a good decade plus worth of experience at that point. But at the time, some of the things I wanted, so I wanted to ditch the commute, I wanted to be able to work from home more, partly so I could have have a dog, but also looking at the hire and fire culture within the industry. There weren't really alternatives to that. And the other thing that was happening at the time was social enterprise was beginning to be more of a thing, more established, but most social businesses were being run and they offered something social in themselves. So it might be you know, taking on old broken bikes and upcycling them and then giving them to kids who don't have a bike, that kind of thing, which are great businesses, but I was looking for a way of continuing to earn my living at the time doing marketing consultancy and give something back. And there was nothing, there was literally nothing. We know that because when we founded the company and decided to found it as a Community Interest Company - a CIC - we had to go through some hoops to persuade the regulator that one could run a mainstream business offering mainstream services and still be a CIC and have this profit share element. It's quite strictly regulated the CIC world, and there wasn't anything like us in it at the time. Yeah, the alternative really was quit or go and do marketing for a charity or something like that, which at the time, didn't necessarily appeal - the idea of going client side, as it's called - leaving agency rather than going client side.
Jeremy Cline 12:45
Why was it important to be a CIC? I mean, why not build up a successful business which then does philanthropic stuff on the side, you know, supporting causes, making donations, all that sort of thing?
Natalie Weller-Cliff 12:58
At the time, it was credibility. The idea of doing good, of course, was something that businesses did and the ad world did. But it was very much lip service, so the idea of being a good business might be saying you're a good business and maybe doing a day's volunteering or something like that. And certainly I've done my fair share of that within corporates and seen my corporate clients do the same. But we just felt it wasn't very credible and if we were going to be taken seriously as a social enterprise it was better at the time to go the whole hog and to have a legal construct that made it you know, something that we had to do rather than something that we were pretending to do, which sadly, a lot of the industry was doing at the time. So that was the reason it's now a little bit, it's more mainstream. And if we were founding today, we might have found as say a B Corps company instead, which has very strict guidelines to it. It's a certification but it's not necessarily a legal construct, but at the time that just wasn't really available. It was around but it wasn't established. And at the time, we wanted to make sure that people realised we were putting our money where our mouth was, and forming as a CIC gave us that legitimacy as a social enterprise.
Jeremy Cline 14:13
I'm just interested as to who you were doing it for. I mean, you mentioned that it gives you the credibility and the legitimacy and that other organisations say that they deal with this charitable stuff, but it's a bit more lip service. I mean, why not just be a normal - for want of a better word - brand agency, but who does actually do that, and you know it does that. Why was it necessary to take this additional step with all the extra bureaucracy and responsibility?
Natalie Weller-Cliff 14:41
I just think because it's too easy to say you're a social business and not really live it. In all respects and purposes we are a normal brand agency. We do work for corporations, for national charities, for government departments, so largely large organisations. That's the focus, and the work we do often has a social element to it, but not always. We don't restrict ourselves in that sense, albeit we do tend to appeal to clients who like the fact that by keeping us in business, they are doing good. But really it just boils down to that credibility. We decided to go the whole hog to really make a statement about it. And interestingly, actually, we're just beginning to get recognition for it. So it's been eight years, as I said, since we founded and we're starting to win awards, better society awards and female frontier awards and things like that as recognition for having founded as a CIC, and, you know, run a business for this time and passed on a considerable amount of money in that time. I mean, we really are tiny, we're a micro business. And the other thing we've done and I think we're getting as much credit for this as we are as for the profit share element is I feel like we really pioneered the idea of flexible working and working from home in a real way, in an industry where people said it just couldn't be done. And again, we have evidence for that in the early days - we told people within the industry that we didn't have an office, that we had a network of home workers, our creative teams were not sat right under our noses where we could monitor what they were doing, which is typical in an agency! And that we gave them a brief and told them what we needed and trusted that they would return with their ideas within the given timeframe. And we were told that that was crazy and it wouldn't work, you know that what we should do is go and hire a big old office somewhere, get lots of junior people in, pay them rubbish money and charge them out high. We were deemed a bit nuts. But I think again, what's really changed in the in the time since we founded is the idea of having homeworkers and no office, it's something we didn't promote much when we first started. We had an office as a front if you like, that we could take clients to if we needed to. But we've we've abandoned that now because we know it makes our clients feel good to know that we are employing people who are therefore able to combine using their their brains and their experience as you know, planners and creatives and copywriters, and project managers, whatever their skills are, and they can combine that with being a parent or a carer, they can work with us and do the school run. And, you know, it's a model that really works and you can see it in the quality of the work. So it's something that we're proud of. We set out that way, partly for practicality. I wanted to homework, so that was a driver, but also the cost of overheads. You know, office space in London is very expensive, and it was or is one of the reasons why there is such a hire and fire culture often in agencies - if you're maintaining a very fancy office in a very desirable postcode in London and you lose a key client, you have to get rid of people in order to keep paying that rent. And we were looking at aspects like that as a business and saying, we don't need it - we don't need to be sat in an office to have people working.
Jeremy Cline 18:10
So what does your business look like now in terms of employees or people who work for you? Are they all employees? Or do you have consultants? What's the sort of shape at the moment?
Natalie Weller-Cliff 18:20
We have a blend. So as a business, the number of employees is very small - about five on the employed basis. And then we have a network of about 20 people that we work with on a very regular basis, but they are freelancers. So they're contracted in, we call them our community because they've worked with us for almost the entire time, we've had far more loyalty from our freelancers than we would have had probably if we'd had straight employees. And again, it's a model that suits so it means that when we need somebody for a job we can work with the person we think is best suited to it rather than the person who happens to be you know, under utilised and sitting in a chair in that expensive London office. And it works for our freelance community because they can work on projects for us but they can also work on other things, or some of them have side interests, different interests, that they're not sort of stuck at their desk all day, doing the same thing. So it happens to work both ways. But yeah, we've grown. We're always adding people into that community. We said from the outset, in addition to founding as a CIC, that we didn't want to get very big. There is a tipping point in a lot of businesses where you grow to a size where the extra demands on you and the extra financial burden, the logistics involved, HR issues, etc - we didn't want to face into that. So we've kept the business fairly small at its core.
Jeremy Cline 19:46
Were there any particular challenges that you had to overcome, perhaps surprising challenges you weren't expecting in moving from the office based model to the remote working model?
Natalie Weller-Cliff 19:57
Actually, one surprise we had was that people were willing from the get go to give us business - actually a positive surprise! Our first client that we picked up that we, you know, hadn't worked with before was Barnardos. They asked to see us because they'd been told by a friend at a party, I think about these two women who had founded a social enterprise and were marketeers and they invited us in to have a coffee, and we thought that was it. I thought they were just being nice to us. And we sat and we explained our business model and what we were doing and why we'd done it, etc and nearly an hour passed and the client very politely went, 'So this project that I have that I'd like you to work on...' and we nearly fell off our chairs! We didn't realise for a second she was actually trying to give us some business. That was a bit of a positive surprise that the model appealed to her just inherently that you know, she wanted to work with us because she thought it was good, what we were doing was good. The negativity came from within our industry - we had several people saying that we were just a bit nuts. I think a few shocks around some people's inability to understand the social model, therefore assuming that we weren't astute in our business sense. So for example, we had several people misunderstand the 50% profit share, and thought that we were giving away 50% of what we were invoicing. So if we were invoicing say, 30,000 for a particular project, that we were giving away half of that 30,000, which, of course is not true. It's, you know, the 50% on the profit. The people had that kind of attitude were really quite vicious in their sense that we were just, you know, these silly fluffy jumpers just do-gooders and we weren't expecting that. We weren't expecting people to misunderstand the model so completely and also to therefore make this assumption about us being uncommercial and you know, that has changed and people now recognise that you can run a social business and be commercially very successful - but in the early days, yeah, we had a few moments where people were being really quite unkind about us because they didn't understand the business model.
Jeremy Cline 22:15
Were these prospective clients or former colleagues or other people in industry?
Natalie Weller-Cliff 22:20
Jeremy Cline 22:21
And what effect did it actually have on the business? Or did it have an effect on the business? Or did it just make you feel rather put out?
Natalie Weller-Cliff 22:28
The effect you had actually was recognising who is for us in terms of the right kind of client and who isn't. So whilst it stung a bit, there were a couple of pitches that we lost because we were a social business and said they didn't understand it. And you know, sometimes given directly in the feedback, so it was a bit galling, to have done a pitch and to have done good work and then be told that you didn't get the job because they thought you didn't understand maths properly. Yeah, I think it made us realise that those kind of clients weren't the right kind of clients. And one thing that has been noticeable for us running a business is that we've had a lot of loyalty from a lot of our clients. They've been with us from very early on, and keep coming back. We have to do good work for that as well. You know, we're not let off the hook in any way around the quality of work. And I'd say anybody thinking about running a social enterprise themselves, it is a very rewarding business model, but you have to be good at the work. It can't be a compensation for work. But we have had a lot of loyalty. And I think a lot of that is because we are a CIC, because we appeal to a certain type of client who sort of gets a slightly bigger picture. And because we're very transparent, and that's another side of the profit share. You know, our finances are really an open book because we have to declare to the regulator at the end of each year, what profit we've made and then make sure that we portion off the 50% for the social cause.
Jeremy Cline 24:01
Let's talk about dogs. You said that one of the reasons why you wanted to give it the commute was because you wanted to have a dog and now you've started this dog behaviour business. How did that start? You said it's been going for a year and started out just helping out others. Is that right?
Natalie Weller-Cliff 24:19
Yes, the very start of it was that little dog that I'd been hankering after, and couldn't have because I was doing this incredibly long, busy day in London for an ad agency - so after quitting, and after forming the marketing, consultancy and social enterprise, did that for about a year to make sure that it was actually going to work and then finally fulfilled an ambition to get a little dog, a little chihuahau called Alfie. And you know, it was all lovely for the first few months and then he started to develop some behavioural problems - he turned into a bit of a hell dog after a while! I'm grateful for his small size because if he'd been big we would have been in serious trouble! He just started bark on every walk and was nipping at people and wouldn't eat - all sorts of problems. And it was very stressful. Running a business and trying to manage this dog that had been this dream and it turned into a bit of a nightmare. And I knew I needed to help him, I didn't really know how. These weren't traditional obedience problems. I realised that. I realised it wasn't just a case of that I hadn't trained him - you know, I'd taken him to puppy school and all that kind of stuff. But I really was a bit at sea and I started to self educate on dogs with behavioural problems and reactive dogs and really got into it and that's how the dog business started. So in parallel to doing the behaviour change work with my clients, I was beginning to get into behaviour change with dogs and became quite fascinated by it. It really is a science. As I was beginning to do some professional qualifications and I needed to broaden my own experience, that's when I started to do the volunteer work, basically, borrowing any problem dog that I could, and working with the owners on the problem behaviour. And it just got to a point where really, it didn't make sense for it to not be a business. It was something that I felt I could do alongside my marketing consultancy work. By this time, I'd dropped down to three days and had dropped down to three days with my marketing consultancy business. I've got a very capable team, so I don't need to necessarily be working full time in that business anymore. And so I founded Dog Like Yours, which is the canine behaviour business, because I really enjoy it. And I like that variety. It's quite nice, you know, to have some days where I'm wrapping my head around how to launch a new product for a major supermarket and the next day I'm figuring out how to help the dog that can't cope with people coming close to the owner and it really does engage my brain. And it's also a complimentary - you know, one is an office job and I'm sat a lot, and the other is going out meeting people and and working with individuals. And the glue between - apart from behaviour change - is also the coaching. That's been really useful in the dog business having the NLP and coaching experience because for owners who have difficult dogs and I understand where they're coming from because I was that owner, it's very stressful. And you do need help dealing with the with the stress and anxiety that comes with having a dog that's behaving badly.
Jeremy Cline 27:34
You mentioned that you dropped down to three days - was that with the view to starting this business? Or was that something that you just wanted to do anyway?
Natalie Weller-Cliff 27:42
Yes, it was to enable the the dog business. I was finding that I was working pretty much without a break, trying to do my main marketing work and at the time doing the voluntary work with behaviour cases and they can be quite intense - and one thing I have I've tried to do in my sort of later stage of a career is to keep some balance between work and life. You know, in my early days in advertising, it was all work. It was very intense. And there were times when it was too stressful and you know, I would get very angry or just be very irritable because I was just so tired, and looking back at it I don't quite know how I got through some of those early years. It really was intense work. And so through Social and Local, I had already held that back somewhat - by homeworking I eliminated largely the need for a commute and that gave me a few hours back from the get go, but also helped me to feel more settled. And when you homework, I think you concentrate very well but you can also get other things done. It's just a more efficient lifestyle, really, without a lot of the stress. That was something that I'd already put in place but then adding the dog behaviour work on top of running and doing the marketing work was beginning to tip that balance again the wrong way. And the marketing business was mature enough that I could reduce the time that I was working there in order to to focus a little bit more on the dog business.
Jeremy Cline 29:12
So what was the appeal of the dog business? And you mentioned that you had the experience with your own dog. But why - when at the time you're running an agency full time - did you decide that you wanted to take this on and start helping other people?
Natalie Weller-Cliff 29:27
I think it's partly my good old-fashioned itchy feet again! I seem to have sort of an 8 to 10 year cycle where I start to go Hmm, what else can I do? So I do think there's something in that. I am realising that I quite enjoy, I guess what people call a portfolio career. I like to have different things going on. And I also quite like to learn. The dog aspect actually added new learning and actually that's been useful for my marketing business as well learning more about behaviour per se and about the neuroscience of behaviour. I quite enjoy seeing connections between the two jobs even though they appear so different on paper. There's a lot of similarities. So that was really a driver, you know, itchy feet and learning might even be genetic, because I didn't really think about it, but I realised that my dad used to run several jobs - he used to run a few desktop publishing companies and a cycle hire, which was his passion. And I didn't really think about it at the time when I started to go down the path of doing the marketing and the canine behaviour work. Perhaps it just sort of suits our personalities not to do one thing, but a combination of things.
Jeremy Cline 30:38
I'm just wondering why it had to be a business though, why you couldn't just sort of do the dogs on a voluntary basis and keep it as a I don't want to say a hobby, but you know, something that isn't an income-generating thing and isn't a business?
Natalie Weller-Cliff 30:56
It's a really good question. And it's something I did think about, carrying on doing the work on a voluntary basis. And I think there's there's two reasons why I chose not to. One is that I am quite commercial, I like to be able to earn and stand on my own two feet. It felt more right to be making some money from the canine behaviour work, not least because there is quite a considerable investment when I add up the training and the qualifications I have, the kit, the insurance. You know, there are costs associated with doing it in a more legitimate way. So I didn't want to be completely funding that myself, albeit I could have looked at it as a hobby. And the other thing is really a recognition around human behaviour that when you do something for free, it's not always valued and not always recognised as something that's real. And that's a problem in canine behaviour. Because if you do have a dog that's got a problem, and quite often I'm dealing with dogs that have quite serious problems, they have bitten people - their owners or strangers - or they're getting into fights or they're, they're barking the house down and you know, people can't sleep and are really distressed by the dog's behaviour. So these are serious problems, and I need the owners to take them seriously. And I found with some of the voluntary work, not all but with some, that people tend to invest more in the training of their dog if they have invested some money.
Jeremy Cline 32:28
This is really interesting and actually goes back to an interview I did with Jacques Hopkins. I'll link to the episode in the show notes. He has a business where he basically teaches people to play the piano but online through an automated core series of his videos. He doesn't actually do live lessons. But he was saying in terms of pricing, his pricing is actually quite high for what he does, but when people fork out that sort of money, it gives them the extra commitment, the extra impetus. It's the well, you know, I've spent this much money. It's the accountability - I've spent this much money, so I better follow through with it.
Natalie Weller-Cliff 33:10
And it's true. And I think - it might sound weird - but almost from a responsibility point of view, I would rather be working with owners who are committed and that includes being willing to spend some money in order to commit back. It's a lesson I learned actually early on in my career when I started to manage people. And as a manager, I guess, because I do have quite a social outlook and loving learning, I also enjoy teaching - I had that from my early years - and I would invest quite a lot of time and personal effort into the people who were on my team but I learned the hard way that some people reciprocate that effort and become brilliant team members and are great to work with, and others become quite lazy and just rely on you to do stuff and they get a sort of learned helplessness about them. Or they just think, you know, this is great - if I pretend I don't know what I'm doing she'll do it for me! And so I came a little bit more hard edged in that respect, and started to look at it as more of a reciprocal relationship that I would put effort in if effort was coming back the other way. And really, I've taken that into the canine behaviour business. And it's critical because if an owner does nothing themselves about their dog, I mean, there's stuff I can do without them present and work with them - but if the owner has zero commitment to making changes themselves, their dog is probably not going to improve, may even get worse. I've taken that lesson of effort in and knowing how to have people value something that you're doing and in this case, charging for what I'm doing is a way to create that value relationship from the outset. And then you know, I give a lot to my clients. I will give them extra time if they need it. I do the dog behaviour work that's paid for but if they need coaching, I do that as a sort of free addition. It works in that way, there's a balance there. But yeah, I found working for free often left me feeling very dissatisfied because I didn't think people were necessarily understanding the issues they had and what they needed to do and were being a little bit blase about it.
Jeremy Cline 35:17
That it makes complete sense. In terms of your place in the two businesses, where's that going for you? Going more towards the dog training away from the marketing? What does the future hold for you?
Natalie Weller-Cliff 35:30
At the moment, it's in balance. I think in an ideal world, I would like to get it more equal. So more 50:50 on the marketing versus the canine behaviour. So you know that would be an ambition in the short term. I think as I said before, I'm very driven by by learning new things. And of course, the canine behaviour world is really opening up from my point of view but also as a field of understanding, it's really developed a long way, partly because of things like neuroscience and being able to understand what's going on internally with dogs rather than just observing what they're doing. And so there is a pull - a strong pull - towards the canine behaviour because I've learned a lot, but there's so much more to learn. And that's very exciting. And I would quite like to expand that side of the business and to look at ways in which I can reach clients and customers beyond the current sort of traditional time, money exchange. So at the moment you know, the business is a traditional model - you pay me a fee, I'll turn up and give you a certain amount of time looking after your dog. I'm looking at ways to change that - so a bit like your example of the guy who gives the online piano teaching - and still enjoying, whilst doing that business, learning and working with different people and working with different types of dogs. So probably the appeal is on the dog side, and the marketing is my sort of steady Eddy, if you like! It's the one that I know the job well now and I do it well, but it's perhaps not got the excitement attached. But I still get satisfaction out of doing a good job for my clients and working my brain. Just being a little bit more selective perhaps around what I do on the marketing side.
Jeremy Cline 37:24
You mentioned the book What Colour is Your Parachute? Are there any other particular resources as you've been on this learning journey, which have particularly helped you - whether it's been sort of mindset, running a business, any quotes, books, courses, anything that's been particularly useful or inspiring for you?
Natalie Weller-Cliff 37:40
I think there's a couple of things that spring to mind. There's another book I found really useful called StrengthsFinder, or StrengthsFinder 2.0, which I think is a book published by Gallup, but StrengthsFinder 2.0 is interesting because it aims to find your natural strengths and help you to develop them. So it comes with a little code, a unique code, and you do an online test that's quite in depth. And then it reveals your individual results. And then you use the book to read up on what those results mean and what it can mean for you. And that book helped me quite a lot a few years ago, when, again, I wasn't quite sure where to develop my marketing career, and we didn't have quite the right team blend. So it was interesting. We got the whole team to use them - once I'd used it, I asked the whole team to use the StrengthsFinder book. And that actually helped with sort of colleague to colleague relationships, as well in recognising you know, where strengths were and building on those strengths rather than sort of where there were tensions, and wondering why there were tensions - sort of recognising different innate abilities, so that was helpful. And the other thing that was helpful to me, surprisingly, was doing a course in improv, which was something a friend dragged me into, and I was very not keen and I'm really not a performer. I'm quite introverted. I love working in library conditions on my own, so it wasn't something I was going to do. But she persuaded me and actually, that was really, really good for me because I can be a bit of a perfectionist, and sometimes that's great because you do a good job - and sometimes it just holds you back from doing things and I do credit actually deciding to go for it on the canine behaviour side, which felt quite daunting at the beginning. Because you know, you work with dogs, you don't know what you're going to get. They can't speak English, you don't know what they're going to be doing and how the owner is going to react. And you have to be able to respond in the moment and be quite decisive about what you're doing. And I do credit doing an improv course with giving me that extra skill and being a bit braver about just going for something, whereas before I would have would have spent ages behind my desk planning, perfecting moving bullet points around and all that kind of stuff.
Jeremy Cline 40:00
It's really interesting actually acting as a medium to learn new skills. I did a leadership course a while ago where they had us doing role plays and given particular roles to play. So your role was the king which had certain behaviour traits, the jester or the mother or you know, all that sort of thing. I always remember, I play music and I did a brief conducting course, and then the guy leading that course said he'd actually done an acting course to enable him better to impart to the orchestra or the band what it was that he wanted to do. So again, drawing out the facial expressions. I wonder if there's something that everyone should do. Really interesting. Yeah.
Natalie Weller-Cliff 40:42
Yeah, I found myself recommending it to people and they've looked at me funny, but as I said it was nothing to do with my work. It was just a lovely friend who dragged me along because she didn't want to do it on her own. I loved it. And I love that idea. There are a few principles that I particularly took away. One was on lesson one, day one, which was the instructor saying I'm gonna ask you to do various things, and as soon as I ask you you're going to be very adult about it and decide to stay firmly planted in your seat because you don't know how to do that and you might be rubbish. And he said, I want you to release your inner three year old - if you're not sure, just move your legs and stand up. And I think that principle of stand up, you know, don't sit in your chair mulling over whether you can do it - just stand up and do it, has been a really useful life lesson to say stop sitting back and thinking, oh my god, I'm not perfect. Just stand up and get going. So that that was incredibly useful as a lesson even though it was just one little sentence that you know, in asking us to not sit in our chairs and stare at our feet when he asked for volunteers. The other one is the concept doing in improv of meeting somebody else's offer. So the idea that you're improvising a scene, and maybe in your head you think it's going a certain way and maybe you've got this really, you know, great joke or funny ending in your head that you're trying to work towards, and then suddenly the other person does something, you just didn't expect them to do something completely counter to what you had in mind and you have to go with their offer, you know, you can't try and steer it towards the thing that you wanted because then the whole thing falls apart and it's not entertaining for people, you just have to go with what they've done, run with it and make the best of it. And again, that was a really useful life lesson and really useful in my job. Go with what people are doing and rather than trying to manipulate or control something, which you know, when you're in marketing you're always controlling and forward planning and trying to manipulate what happens - and sometimes it's just better to roll with what's happening and respond and you get a far better response when you respond to what's happening rather than trying to to manage it all the time.
Jeremy Cline 42:51
Absolutely. Natalie, where can people go to find out about you or get in touch with you?
Natalie Weller-Cliff 42:56
Two places - socialandlocal.co.uk is the marketing business and social enterprise, and dogslikeyours.co.uk is the canine behaviour business.
Jeremy Cline 43:08
Great. I will link to both of those in the show notes. Well Natalie, thank you so much. It's been really interesting hearing about the the dual businesses, and best of luck with both of them.
Natalie Weller-Cliff 43:17
Thank you very much for interviewing me. It's been fun.
Jeremy Cline 43:20
Okay, hope you enjoyed that interview with Natalie Weller-Cliff. One of the things that she said, which I found quite interesting was this idea of having itchy feet and needing to start things anew or change things up a bit every eight or so years. I don't think this is something which is unique to Natalie. And in fact, it's probably something that we could all do as things will change over that period. We don't necessarily need to make wholesale changes to our lives and our careers every 8 to 10 years. But chances are that our life circumstances will have changed over that time. And so the idea of adjusting to meet those needs, the new needs of our life just kind of make sense to me. I also loved what Natalie was saying about just standing up and doing something and not getting bogged down in planning and perfecting something before actually taking action. I think that's a really important point, how it's so easy to want something to be perfect right from the get go. In reality, whatever it is that we're working on doesn't necessarily need to be perfect from the beginning. The more important thing is just to get it done, get it out of there, because it's something that we can improve or tinker with over time. It's certainly something that I need to pay more attention to. And I'm really glad that Natalie made the point. You'll find show notes for this episode on the Change Work Life website, they're at changeworklife.com/42 for Episode 42. And it would mean the world to me if you would take just a few seconds just to leave a review on Apple podcasts or wherever it is that you get your podcasts from. Reviews really do help other people find the show and if you can leave an honest review - I do like honest five stars reviews it has to be said - but if you can leave an honest review I'd be incredibly grateful. I will see you back here next week for another great interview and I can't wait to see you then. Cheers. Bye
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