Accountant, business-owner and dog behaviourist, Emma Austin explains how to combine a genuine understanding of what drives you with an analytical mindset to help you find what you really love, and what is both fulfilling and right for you.
Emma Austin of Harmony Professional Dog Training
Website: Harmony Professional Dog Training
Facebook: Harmony Dog Behaviour
Emma Austin never imagined that she would become an animal behaviourist, and in fact never wanted to own a dog in the first place! But, by understanding what she really valued in her career and committing her ambition and resourcefulness to her goals, Emma shows how you can build a career that drives you and supports the life you want to build for yourself.
Emma works as a Certified Animal Behaviourist and Trainer with The Association of INTODogs and The International Companion Animal Network. She is passionate about dog and owner welfare, meeting owners who are living every day with a dog they are too ashamed to walk, or too frightened to spend time around, as well as dogs who are out of their minds with boredom, frustration, fear and anxiety just trying to exist in, what is for them, a difficult human world.
She runs Harmony Professional Dog Training, which provides behaviour consultations and support as well as classes. The behaviour consultations are at home and at the bespoke paddock at Hinxworth (between Baldock and Biggleswade, UK). Dogs and owners often need group classes too – owners need to learn how to communicate with and have fun with their dogs in ways that are meaningful to the dog and they each need to learn a little of each other’s language.
Listen to this episode to find out how Emma’s career path developed, and to be inspired to shape your career the way you want it to look.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- [6:20] The need to get a job which is compatible with your other commitments, such as childcare.
- [7:09] The importance of identifying what you want your job to do for you and the criteria it needs to match.
- [9:22] Why you need to make sure you are doing something which interests and challenges you and how to incorporate this into your life.
- [11:35] How specialising can give you a competitive edge.
- [13:49] The process of planning and transitioning from employee to business owner.
- [14:48] How client demand can force you to expand beyond your original niche.
- [16:19] How you can treat a particular stage of your career as a project rather than something you’ll do for a lifetime.
- [18:00] How coaching can help you find out what it is you love doing.
- [19:41] Taking the time to transition to a new career and exploring the different possibilities.
- [25:01] How previous experience and knowledge can still be relevant and useful in a new career.
- [27:02] The factors to consider before deciding whether to take on staff and expand a business.
- [28:51] The difficulties of drawing boundaries in “helping” professions.
- [30:34] Why a decision to change career isn’t necessarily an intellectual one.
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.
To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.
Episode 68: Matching your career to your circumstances and finding out what drives you - with Emma Austin of Harmony Professional Dog Training
Jeremy Cline 0:00
You're a professional, you're well-qualified, you're highly thought of. You've maybe taken loads of exams, you're extremely good at what you do. You've worked really hard to get where you are. Maybe you've even started your own professional practice. Does it really make sense to jack that all in and start something completely different? That's what we're going to talk about in this episode. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.
Jeremy Cline 0:37
Hello and welcome to the Change Work Life podcast, the show that's all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. I'm delighted this week to welcome to the show Emma Austin. I first met Emma when she was an accountant who'd built up an extremely successful practice. But recently, I found out that she'd switched and become a dog behaviourist. So, I had to ask Emma on to the show to find out a bit more about this change. Emma, welcome to the podcast.
Emma Austin 1:02
Hi, Jeremy. Delighted to be here.
Jeremy Cline 1:05
You said specifically when we were speaking earlier that you are an animal behaviourist and not an animal trainer. Could you talk a bit more about what it is that you do? What is an animal behaviourist, and who are your clients and how do you help them?
Emma Austin 1:19
An animal behaviourist tends to work with animals with particular issues such as anxiety, phobias - dog reactivity is the big one. And it tends to be on a one-to-one basis, and often at someone's home or at a place that's local to that particular owner. Dog training is typically using treats and rewards to get an animal to give you a certain behaviour. So, clearly there's an overlap, but I tend to work more on the behaviour side, although I do run a few classes, as well. They tend to be quite comprehensive classes, doing a lot of things like body awareness work for dogs and socialisation, rather than just teaching the dogs to sit, fetch, walk with a loose lead and come when called.
Jeremy Cline 2:02
What is the client's situation that makes them think, 'Oh my goodness, I need Emma to help me'?
Emma Austin 2:07
It's often when they've tried to go to a training class and it's been a disaster because their dog's been barking or was unable to get out of the car. It's quite often when they're beginning to think about rehoming or euthanasia, because they feel like they've reached the end of the road before they contact me. Which is one of the reasons I love it, because you actually do feel like you can make an amazing difference in everyone's life.
Jeremy Cline 2:31
So, these are people who got a dog and then realise they're just not equipped to look after it?
Emma Austin 2:37
Yes, except sometimes, like with children, you don't know what you're going to get. So, you might decide in your own mind, you want to get a dog for companionship, but your dog wants to walk 30 miles a day, or you might want to walk 30 miles a day, and your dog just wants to sit and cuddle on the sofa. So, often the owners are not well-matched to the dog or don't have the skills, resources to give the dog what they need.
Jeremy Cline 3:02
Is this something that people can think about before even buying their first dog? I mean, can you advise them on different types of breeds or personality types before they go out and actually buy one?
Emma Austin 3:15
Yeah, absolutely. There is information out there. But quite often, I think, as an owner or potential owner, you think life will unfold in a certain way and actually, the reality of having your dog is different. So, if you're going to go and get a collie, you're quite often committed at the outset to the two walks a day and a bit of enrichment, and then lives change. And all of a sudden you find you can't take the dog out twice a day, perhaps the dog's starting to get reactive, so you don't want to take the dog out twice a day - it's barking at everyone. So, the life of you and the dog gets smaller and smaller and smaller, and the dog gets more and more nuts, but at the outset it's what you thought you wanted. I think especially for first-time dog owners, it's a tough call. I have an owner who's got a little pug, who got the pug because they wanted to go long walks together. I'm thinking oh, it's really tiny. It's never gonna do that! Not ever! But sometimes your brain doesn't go quite that far.
Jeremy Cline 4:13
Yeah, pugs are the ones with quite little legs, aren't they?
Emma Austin 4:16
They're tiny! Tiny, tiny creatures. Yeah.
Jeremy Cline 4:20
So, have animals always featured in your life? When you were a kid, did you have pets growing up?
Emma Austin 4:25
I had mixed feelings about animals growing up. I'm actually crazy allergic - gets-me-into-hospital allergic. I have quite severe asthma, which made the last lockdown pretty tough for me. So, I didn't want dogs or cats as an adult. My ex-husband decided, because he was at home and he was lonely, he wanted to get a dog. Massive rows, massive. I did not want the dog. In the end, I gave in and he got the dog, and then he left about a year later and he left the dog. That's how I got into dog ownership.
Jeremy Cline 4:58
And how has that interacted with the allergies and the asthma?
Emma Austin 5:02
So, for the first maybe 8 to 10 years, we did have to bath the dogs in anti-allergy shampoo, and be careful about which rooms they have access to, put down lino as opposed to carpet. But interestingly, over the years, we have all found we are less allergic to our dogs. Now, if we have other dogs in the house, my face swells up, my eyes run, I wheeze. But, no, you do gradually, I think, build up a little tolerance to them.
Jeremy Cline 5:33
Let's go back to the accountancy, which is obviously when we first met. Was becoming an accountant your first proper job? Or did you try other things before you started in accountancy?
Emma Austin 5:46
It was my first proper, proper job, but I had pootled around. So, my degree was in engineering. I'd done a spell doing voluntary work overseas in an orphanage and in a centre for rehabilitating the paralysed in Bangladesh. Came back from that, wanted to become a teacher, to make a difference in the world, having seen what I'd seen when I was abroad. But when I was doing my teacher training, I met my ex-husband. And then we decided to stay and I went into teaching in an inner-city school in North London. And then I've taught in a private school as well. But once I had the two children, I found that it didn't fit in very well actually with having kids, because you needed childminders before school, childminders after school - it was just utterly exhausting. So I started then to re-evaluate where I was going to go with my career. I've got three children altogether, but at that time I had two, and just the childcare costs for the two children meant it wasn't worth going and doing a day's work. So, I then began thinking about what else I might like to do. So, I didn't study for accountancy until I had child number one.
Jeremy Cline 6:52
So, when you were re-evaluating this, and leaving aside how you got into accountancy, which we'll get into a minute, what were you identifying as what you wanted the job to do for you in terms of things like hours and flexibility?
Emma Austin 7:07
I did all of the research, and I wanted a job that would give me some flexibility to work around the children. I wanted something that would use my brains and would challenge me professionally, a little bit. And I wanted to be able to earn an income that would support my family. Even in the very early days, it was on my mind that I would be the one supporting the children. So, I wanted to have a career that would allow me to go all of the way and support them and pay the mortgage, as well as cover any childcare costs and be flexible.
Jeremy Cline 7:40
The flexibility is an interesting one, because when I think of accountancy, I don't immediately think of flexibility. Certainly not necessarily when you're starting out. I mean, you think of people in the Big Four, the big city firms. I suppose it's like many professional areas, there is the possibility of flexibility, but it's usually people who have already started, they've been doing it for a while and then they've gone off and had children and then they come back and maybe do reduced hours or that sort of thing. So, how did you come to decide that accountancy ticked those boxes?
Emma Austin 8:13
I found a couple of small, part-time jobs locally that were in an accounts assistant-type role. And I studied the first year of an accountancy course. And actually, once I'd done that, the local college got me in. Because I'd already taught at university level, they got me in to teach an accountancy course. So, very quickly, I had a portfolio of jobs that actually fitted around the children very nicely. So, whilst I totally agree if I'd have gone for a Big Four, wouldn't have worked at all. I paid for my own training, I did all the studying in my own time, and I had these portfolio jobs that sort of fitted around, albeit in an exhausting way because there was never any time off actually for me, but it was far less of a compromise for the children.
Jeremy Cline 9:04
How did you manage all that? My mum actually went through something similar, she trained to be an accountant - she started as a bookkeeper and then did her ACCA, and I remember there was a lot of her sitting at the dining room table studying whilst also trying to cook the meals and all that sort of stuff. So, how did that fit?
Emma Austin 9:23
At that time in my life, I had relatively under-challenging jobs that I could do fairly easily. You're around small children, people want to talk to you about nappies and pushchairs, which wasn't a life I felt well equipped for. So, having the mental challenge of the training for the accountancy profession, I thought it was fantastic, and I took the books everywhere with me.
Jeremy Cline 9:46
You mentioned just then the time for yourself, and whilst you were doing this studying for yourself, did you feel like at the time you didn't have any time for self-care or doing something indulgent for yourself?
Emma Austin 10:02
No time at all. Yeah, no time. And I think when I look back over the last 20 years, it's something my life has really lacked. But when you have children, and you need to support them, it kind of focuses the mind. So, I would say now is the first time that I find I've actually got time to have a nice bath, go on a walk, meet up with friends, and do all those good things.
Jeremy Cline 10:23
So, when you were doing the training, where did you think you would get to at the end of it? Were you thinking in terms of your own practice at that point? Or were you thinking that you would join a practice, become an employee, possibly work your way up that way?
Emma Austin 10:37
Oh, gosh, thinking back on it, I think all I wanted was a job and I didn't see myself going into practice. So, when I first started, I had one of those portfolio jobs that fitted around the children. One of those was in an accountancy practice, and I didn't love it. So, I saw myself more going to be, I think at that stage, just a part-qualified accountant in a business somewhere. And that is how I started, I was a branch accountant for three subsidiaries of a US conglomerate. And that was at part-qualified level, and that was just locally and it did fit around the children at that stage. But I'm never satisfied, so I was always working towards the next step. But it worked for a while when the kids were small.
Jeremy Cline 11:20
Talk me through how you went from that to starting your own business, your own practice.
Emma Austin 11:26
After being a branch accountant, I became financial controller in a bigger business, and then a finance director in a group. And I was always employed. And I was working along sometimes some consultant accountants who we used for very specialist bits of work. And I think that begun getting me thinking about how if you focus on a specific aspect of your profession, you can then work independently, charge more and have more flexibility. And I didn't decide to work for myself until my marriage ended. And I had a three-year-old and two children less than 10, and decided at that point, it'd be a great idea to set up my own business, because I needed more stress in my life! Actually, best thing I ever did, absolutely by a million miles. And straightaway, I got two regular clients doing management accounts work from the word go. So, I had regular income. And then I'd begun to build the practice off the back of those two clients. So, looking back, I think it was a crazy decision. But actually, it worked really, really well.
Jeremy Cline 12:35
What made you take the action, then? You said that just what you needed was more stress in your life, having the two young kids, so what was the driver that made you do it?
Emma Austin 12:46
I think I realised I could earn more and do less with a bit of risk and a bit of nouse. So, I wasn't foolhardy. I wrote the business plan, there was a budget. You can imagine, Jeremy. I had all of the numbers, and I just didn't decide to do it, I realised that it was unequivocally the right thing to do for me. And it meant I could work from home. And even when the practice got bigger, if I needed to take one of the kids into hospital, you'd just get your PA to rearrange your appointment, rather than if you're the FD and you're running a board meeting in a large company, it's very difficult to duck out. So, the decision made itself, it wasn't hard in the end, at all. There was a spreadsheet, there was a business plan, it was clear it was the right thing. So, I had three months' notice. I gave my notice, in the background started just researching and thinking and talking to people about the next steps. And yeah, within the three months, I'd met people who wanted my services. So, it was a very easy transition.
Jeremy Cline 13:49
So, was there any planning before you gave your three months' notice? Or did you start just at that point?
Emma Austin 13:56
Yeah, of course there was planning, but not so detailed. So, I knew it was a goer, as a venture. And then as it happened, all my original planning - as is often the case - you throw it out the window, and then you start again, don't you, when you actually start realising the facts of how your business is going to unfold. But I never felt like I was taking a risk. It just felt like the decision had already been made, it was clear.
Jeremy Cline 14:23
When you were starting out with your own business, what did you think it would look like? Did you have a five-year vision when you started?
Emma Austin 14:30
I did. I started with the end in mind. It was actually a 10-year goal, that I wanted to build a business and sell it within 10 years. I never wanted to be as big as I got, actually. My vision was just to have a relatively small business being quite bespoke. But what I found was it was hard to stick with a niche, because if you're doing someone's management accounts, business planning, their finance director work, they will quite often ask you to do their tax returns or their financial accounts. So, I quickly began to employ a team and get the necessary regulatory infrastructure set up so we could offer an integrated suite of services. So, that was a little off-piste, really, for me, and it took quite a lot of overhead to hold that bigger business - the integrated suite of services - together, which wasn't really my intention at the start.
Jeremy Cline 15:25
Did you explore other options? Could you have done this through referrals, best friend networks, that sort of thing, rather than employing all the people to offer these services in your own outfit?
Emma Austin 15:37
Yeah, I did look at that. I looked at being part of a franchise, as well. I think with accountancy, maybe similarly to law, the way that practices tend to be structured is that you have a principal who's insured and responsible for everything that happens. And I think I wanted very much to know, therefore, what was happening and to feel competent to sign off on all of those services. So, whilst I looked at working, as you say, with a network, I don't think at that time I had enough expertise to be able to really work that network. What I needed was to do the work myself first, and then employ people and supervise them so I understood how it was going to integrate.
Jeremy Cline 16:19
I'd like to go back to your 10-year plan and your plan at the very start to build up the business over 10 years and then to sell it. Why have that plan, why decide that you're going to build something up for 10 years and then sell?
Emma Austin 16:37
I never wanted to have a particularly high income, or to have a profession that lasted a lifetime. So, I did it as a project, because it intrigued me, it interested me to build something up, and I was excited to be on that journey. I did also have the three children, so I did not want to tie myself too heavily into earning an income. I wanted that flexibility, and by employing people, I did create that flexibility. And there are also tax credits and things for being a single parent, which, with a lower income, I could take advantage of - but I didn't want to do it for a lifetime, and I knew that absolutely from the outset.
Jeremy Cline 17:19
At the start, or maybe getting into that 10-year period, towards the start of that 10-year period, did you have much of a feel at that stage what you were going to do afterwards?
Emma Austin 17:30
No, nothing. Not a clue. No idea at all. I just had this idea that I would have more time for myself, for the children. And I was prepared to work hard to have that break, if you like, that opportunity to rebuild a new life.
Jeremy Cline 17:46
So, fast-forwarding, when you did come to sell your practice, how accurate was your planning and prediction in terms of timing it? Was it 10 years and then yes, I'm selling?
Emma Austin 17:56
It wasn't 10 years, it was before that. So, all the time that I'd been working for myself, I'd had some sort of business coaching in the background. And that coaching was often guiding me to employ people to do the things that I didn't have unique skills for or didn't have an interest in. And through that process, I began to realise that actually, there wasn't a whole lot about my job that I absolutely loved doing. I loved working with clients and having that face-to-face time with them. And I did like a lot of the technical advice I was able to give. Actually, doing accounts didn't really interest me. And I think once I'd really realised that and worked with lots of accountants who really did love just doing accounts, I think my heart was no longer in it. I decided probably about year five or six that I would be stepping away. And I just started to put feelers out and have those conversations at that point.
Jeremy Cline 19:00
What were you thinking you were going to transition into at that point? Had you already decided that it was going to be something involving animals, or was there more of a thought process that led you to the path that you eventually switched to?
Emma Austin 19:13
I was really reticent to rush into anything. Because, I suppose, with hindsight, I wonder if I rushed to set up that practice. But, you know, to be honest, I think it still was the right thing given my circumstances, but I didn't want to rush into setting up a dog business and then get five years down the line and think, that wasn't right either! So, when I originally started thinking about stepping away from practice work, I thought I might just carry on with contract work in accountancy. So, contract finance director work, which actually, after the sale of my business, I did carry on with some part-time contract work while I just explored other options. And to start with, I'd been taking the dog that I was left with and then my second dog to dog training at a dog training school and I'd qualified as a dog training instructor. But at that time, I wasn't really committed to the idea. There was something that didn't quite sit well with me. So, I didn't run into it at all. And I've carried on with contract work right up until quite recently. But I've done quite a lot of studying to be qualified as a behaviourist. And then over the last three years, doing all sorts of things with dogs - walking, boarding, training classes, workshops and the behaviour work - until I'd begun to find how it fitted together for me, and the things that really I feel passionate about and I love, and the parts of the sector that I don't love, and I don't want to have as part of what I do going forward. As an example of that, I've done some board and train programmes, where you have a dog that perhaps the owner is unable to train for themselves, perhaps because of a physical disability, or because the dog's behaviour's just got too unmanageable, and the dog will come and stay with me. I have a nice, safe set-up for them and all the relevant licences. And I'll work with the dog and have them for two weeks, and I work so hard - as you would expect, want to have the best standard - loads of videos to the owners about the progress we're making. And I can get the dogs to such a high standard of behaviour in that time. But the reality is, they'll go back home and pretty reliably within three to five days of going back home, they will revert to all of the previous behaviours. I just don't feel that's rewarding for me. In fact, it's quite disheartening. So, having tried it, and done some wonderful work, got some great case studies for my own professional development from it, it's not the way I want to go forward. I like to work with dogs in their home environment supporting the owners, because ultimately, it's about changing the relationship between the dog's owner and the dog. Yes, you can step in and make an intervention. But ultimately, the relationship with the dog's owner has to work. So, it's been a journey exploring all the different aspects and I'm really grateful that I've had some time to do that, and not just to have to jump straight in. So, I have a whole life set up now that works beautifully for me. I have a lovely camper van that I take to my paddock where I work when I'm doing work outdoors. And when I'm meeting people indoors, I have all the resources that I need. Not that we're doing that during lockdown, obviously. But yeah, it's been great to have the time over the last two or three years to work out how I wanted this to work for me.
Jeremy Cline 22:43
And as part of that process, you said that you've tried lots of things, but all of them involving dogs. When did you decide that whatever you were going to do, it was going to involve dogs?
Emma Austin 22:54
Probably a couple of years ago. So, I have been quite risk-averse in keeping some contract work in accountancy in the background. I in fact only just resigned my professional memberships end of last year, so I kept them in the background. So, I guess the final decision was that point, wasn't it, when I suddenly was able to let go of any connection to my previous professional career. I just feel so happy - such a release having done that.
Jeremy Cline 23:23
And in terms of this exploration process, were there any other things that you did, be it coaching or personality tests or whatever it might be to make you comfortable that you had made the right decision? Or was it all just based on trying a bit of this, trying a bit of that?
Emma Austin 23:40
So, when I was doing the coaching, I'd had the personality tests. And in fact, when I first looked at what I was going to do to support my family, I'd done career questionnaires then. And they'd always guided me that, yeah, I needed something that was intellectually challenging, but there was an element in all of them that something practical and outdoorsy would also suit. So, I remember at school I did one - hilarious now, looking back - but it came back with tree surgeon, which I have not pursued! But in the personality and the career coaching stuff, that's always been there - that I like being able to do things with my hands. So, I guess having done engineering, and I grew up with a very outdoorsy sort of life, that I felt quite confident that for me, working face-to-face with people in a practical capacity, but using some quite high-level intellectual skills as well was the right fit. So, if you imagine in tax advice, it's technical advice giving. And actually dog behaviour advice, it's not a million miles from that, although you've got the relationship interventions as well, which I like. I like the fact that you are working quite so directly with people in what I'm doing now.
Jeremy Cline 25:02
You must have found your previous life has helped you with this business, so acting as FD and that sort of thing, that it's been able to assist you in terms of starting your own business from a business perspective.
Emma Austin 25:14
Absolutely, absolutely. I feel quite privileged. A lot of people who go into dog behaviour work don't have the business background that I've got. So, I have been able to go at it from the perspective of a business that will work for me for the long term. And also, having sold my previous business, did have a little bit of capital to invest. And again, a lot of dog trainers don't have that and the margins when you start are very slim, but you do need resources to get going. So, now I have a full agility paddock set up. And I feel quite privileged that I've been able to do that quite early on. It's great for working with people, getting dogs doing things with their owners outdoors. I think not just the business background, but also a little bit of money to invest has been hugely beneficial.
Jeremy Cline 26:04
You mentioned there that you acquired both the skills and the resources to set up something that's going to last long-term. You had the 10-year time horizon when you started the accountancy practice. What's your time horizon and future plans for the dog behaviour business?
Emma Austin 26:19
I do have a bit of a time plan. But my overall intention is just that it will stay with me through semi-retirement and then retirement. At the moment, I am running some group classes, and I do quite a lot of work outdoors. And there's just in my mind, the idea that I will step back from quite the more physically challenging side of that work, perhaps in the next five years. So, I have a bit of arthritis in both of my hands, so, it's just taking care of myself from that point of view that being outside in all weathers may not suit me for the longer term. Not for all of my working day. It will always be a part of what I do, though.
Jeremy Cline 27:01
So, this isn't something then that you're planning to build up and sell, this is something which you're hoping to continue as long as you can, really?
Emma Austin 27:08
It is, and I am now faced with decisions about whether I take on staff, which wasn't my intention, but the business has grown quickly. So, it may be that with the training, the group classes, I employ people to do some of that work for me, albeit I'll be there supporting and supervising. I haven't decided yet. So, having had a big team, I think I'm a bit reluctant to go back down that route. But I have two wonderful trainers who are keen to work with me, so we are exploring that.
Jeremy Cline 27:41
I was going to ask, does that make you feel, okay, yes, I've done this before I can do it again? Or does it make you feel, oh, no, here we go again!
Emma Austin 27:49
It's a little bit of, oh, no, here we go again, but it is a different sort of person. So, I found in accountancy, I'm quite entrepreneurial, very customer-focused. And then I found employing other accountants surprised me that they didn't have the same approach that I had to my work. Whereas I think the dog trainers who I'm working with have the time to give, they're very committed, they are customer-focused. So, whilst there's a little bit of oh, no, here we go again, it's just that commitment to providing work and always making sure that your staff are looked after, they're insured, they've got the right equipment. But on the upside, they're really supportive and very good with the people that we work with. So, mixed feelings at the moment, Jeremy, and I've said to both of them, you know, we're just exploring it at the moment. I want to have a life where I do what I love, which is working with people and their relationships with their animals, not supporting a big team to do that. So, it is a very different thing.
Jeremy Cline 28:51
Because there certainly is a train of thought which says that you don't have to keep expanding a business, you can just get it to the level that supports your own outlook and what you want to do, even if that is just as a solopreneur, or just having a team of one or two people.
Emma Austin 29:08
Yes. And that will be where we need to stop the growth of this business so that it suits my needs. The draw into growing it is that there is a need, and I'm being approached to do more work than I have time available by people who really need the help. So, I was called this time last week by someone who was taking their dog to have them put to sleep on the Tuesday unless I could help them. So, it's quite a pull when you get people who are at the end of their current journey to step in and do something, and there aren't so many professionals out there that it's easy to source someone else to help them. So, I guess with any helping profession, I'm encountering it's tough to know where the boundary is, and to say no, sometimes.
Jeremy Cline 29:58
Looking back - and particularly the decision to sell the accountancy practice and ultimately to step away from that - was there any particular reluctance, having invested so much into it to go down a completely different route? I mean, to become a qualified accountant and a tax advisor, and then to start up your own successful practice, and then suddenly think, you know what, I'm gonna drop it all and start something different. There must have been part of you that almost thought that this was wasting the past however many years of your life.
Emma Austin 30:32
There's a little bit of that. For the most part, it wasn't an intellectual decision to move on. It was a realisation. And I remember a moment in a coaching workshop, and everyone was analysing all the business processes that go on and who in their team was best placed to do them and the things that they loved in their own business. And when I realised I didn't love enough of it, the decision was made. And I've not regretted the decision at any point, and I've not felt like I've second guessed myself there. Maybe the timing wasn't perfect, maybe I could have done it differently. But I am so much happier now. It's fine to let it go. Life's a journey, isn't it? And you make the decisions at the time that are right. And it was the best thing at that time.
Jeremy Cline 31:23
To ask the impossible - and I think one guest told me unfair - question, does part of you wish that actually you had not made the decision to go into accountancy, but instead had started with something like this?
Emma Austin 31:37
I would never have thought in a million years that I'd even have a pet dog. So, if you could have asked me back then, it just would not have crossed my mind. And I needed to earn a proper income. It just wouldn't have crossed my mind to try and do something like this, I wouldn't have had the skills. I only developed the skills from having that first dog who wasn't so nice to me, she was quite aggressive. And as soon as my ex-husband left, I wanted to get her rehomed, I didn't want to keep her. It wouldn't have crossed my mind to do something like this then, and I'm very grateful for that amazing experience that I've got.
Jeremy Cline 32:17
Fantastic. I wish you luck with this business. We're recording this just at the start of November, the start of a second lockdown here in the UK, hopefully a short lockdown. And hopefully before too long, you will be able to get back to business as whatever usual looks like!
Emma Austin 32:33
I think we're just waiting for guidance, but last time, you could carry on with one-to-one training on a paddock, you could still do practical, socially distanced walks, and you can do online work. So, I'm hoping the only thing that will change is the group classes. And I have been in touch with everyone and we're trying to translate those into some sort of blended learning for a month, because as you say, it's hopefully a month, but there's no guarantee, is there?
Jeremy Cline 33:00
No, no, there certainly isn't. Emma, this has been absolutely fascinating. I've loved hearing about your journey. You mentioned some of the career questionnaires and personality questionnaires. Have there been any other particular books, tools, resources that have just really helped you as part of this journey?
Emma Austin 33:17
So, I've read a lot about this area, lots of books on dog training. But the one that really helped me realise that the dog behaviour work was the right path is a book by Masson and McCarthy, it's called When Elephants Weep, and it is about the emotional lives of animals. And that is what made me realise that working with animals in the round, looking at their full lives, not just training specific behaviours, be it jumping through a hoop, coming when called. When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals. It's a fabulous read, it talks about how animals do express grief, more complex emotions. We like to think that animals don't have that range of emotions, because we eat animals. So, I think if we really acknowledged the range of emotions that animals can feel it would put us in a very conflicted state. So, I can't recommend it enough.
Jeremy Cline 34:20
Fantastic. I'll certainly put a link to that in the show notes. And if people want to get a hold of you, what's the best way for them to get in touch?
Emma Austin 34:26
Probably by website or Facebook. I'm www.harmony.dog, but I'm also on Facebook at Harmony Dog Behaviour. And really happy always to have a chat with people they want to get in touch.
Jeremy Cline 34:40
Emma, thank you so much, I've really enjoyed this chat, and best of luck for the future.
Emma Austin 34:45
Thank you, Jeremy. It's been a privilege being here.
Jeremy Cline 34:48
Okay, I hope you enjoyed that interview with Emma Austin. Emma is someone who I feel like I can relate to a lot. Not just the fact that she used to practice in an area which isn't a million miles from my own area of professional practice, but she's also a very analytical person. She talks about doing things on spreadsheets, planning, always having an idea as to what she's going to do next. But it was really interesting how the end of this thought process, it was all about, okay, yes, I've thought about this. I've done the maths, I've worked out what I need to do in order to look after my children and all that sort of thing. But ultimately, am I loving what I'm doing? That was what it came down to. And despite all the analysis, it came down to a much more gut instinct sort of decision. This instinct, is this right? Am I enjoying this? Am I loving this? And I think that's a really great takeaway for those of us who are particularly of a more analytical mindset.
Jeremy Cline 35:46
There's the usual show notes to accompany this episode with a summary of everything we discussed, together with a full transcript, if you want to go back and read what we said. And you'll find all that at changeworklife.com/68. For me, this was a great story to end the year on. And I really hope that you enjoyed the festive period, that you've had a chance to relax, and you've had a chance to reflect on what the year ahead might bring. I mean, let's face it, no one really knows what the year ahead might bring. 2020 has just been the most unbelievable, ridiculous year. I don't think anyone could have predicted that the year was going to pan out the way it has. In many ways, it's been an incredibly difficult year, but it's also been a really good time to take stock, to reflect, to start to think about, do I really want things to go back the way they were? Which is something that we've discussed on a few of my previous episodes.
Jeremy Cline 36:43
And so, with that in mind, January on the podcast, January 2021, is going to have as its theme 'taking action'. All of the interviews are going to be around that theme of what we can do to take action so we can move from having thought, reflected, considered whether what we want to be doing is something different to starting to take positive action in that direction. The first interview of 2021 is going to be very much in that vein. And in that episode in particular, we're going to look at what stops us taking action, what causes us to procrastinate, what is it that means that we just don't take the next step? I think you're going to like what January has to offer in terms of what's on the podcast, so do please hit subscribe, never miss an episode. We've got some great content coming up in 2021. Do make sure you hit subscribe, follow us on all the social media channels. You don't want to miss anything. And I can't wait to see you in 2021. Happy New Year.
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