It’s that time of the year where we start to put a strategy in place so we are as prepared for the truffle season as we can be. This means reaching out to clients or them reaching out to us and the inevitable conversation of price comes up. It used to make me sick to my stomach. I had 6 months to stew over am “I good enough, where can I cut costs, is someone cheaper going to take my client”. It wreaked havoc with my mental health and sometimes because I was taking everything to heart too much it would keep me up at night and I wouldn’t eat enough so it would affect my physical health too. I have invested a lot of time and money in personal development and trying to figure out why I do the things I do. I have come such a long way which has prompted this rebrand if you want to call it that. Now I am by no means done, I think I will always be trying to better myself and understand myself better.
This has led me to reflect on what is truly important to be? Firstly it’s my dogs. We have worked through storms, in unsafe trufferies, unnecessary people and people with loose dogs running around us while we work and so much more. This I will not compromise on anymore. For me personally, communication is so important, I like to have time to prepare and I want both sides to be heard fairly. Lastly sustainability. Whether that is truffling in the future or if it leans towards more dog training, it has to be worth it for me to invest in and grow in.
How this looks in a practical manner. My new mantra is going to be, sustainable and ethical. First I am going to stop comparing myself to others. No one else truffles like me, that’s not a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just a thing. It’s easy to get hung up on big companies doing things drastically different from me like adopting their dogs out to homes and then in kennels worked by casual employees. I can’t compete with that, nor do I want to. My dogs live inside, they get the best food I can provide for them, I put value in keeping their fitness up all year round. I am offering a premium service for people who want to know where their food is coming is from most ethical way possible. Is that more expensive? yes. Is that for everyone? No! and that’s ok. That is important to me and I shouldn’t feel pressured to feel differently
For anyone looking at getting into truffle hunting with their dog professionally it is so rewarding. If you love your dogs and you enjoy the training process you will love this kind of work. It’s rewarding, it’s my happy place, I have become a better person because I work with dogs. Like everything you have to be willing to make the sacrifices, so I thought I might share my story for anyone who is thinking about entering into truffle hunting and help them not make the same mistakes I did.
Know your worth. This has always been something I struggle with not just with truffling. Now I’m not saying start $100 per hour in your first year, you will definitely need to learn and grow into the role and as you enter into the industry it can be a great point of difference if charge less and that’s awesome. Just make sure that as your experience grows and your overheads increase that is reflected in your price. I feel like I am consistently trying to prove my worth still even 10 years into this journey. It’s ok to say no and it’s ok to be different.
Have a goal, This has taken me 10 years to put one in place. I never had any direction, it was very much, oo that’s interesting let’s try that, oo look that’s different let’s look at that. This is really ineffective if you want to quantify what you do and it’s hard to make that dream come true if you can’t put steps in place to get there. I would also have equipment goals and how to get there. I couldn’t afford really nice wet weather gear to start with, it certainly is worth the investment. Don’t be afraid to ask people for guidance and what you might need. You can definitely reach out to me, try the truffle dog handlers too, any dog related business works though. Which leads on to my next point
What’s important to you? This is your mission statement, your business plan. What is acceptable and what’s not. Something I didn’t do at the start of my journey was take enough time to plan where I was going or figure out what was actually important to me and my business. This made for poor decision making that went against my moral compass and put my dogs at risk.
Bookkeeping, whether you do it yourself or you get a third party person or program. You need to keep on top of your numbers. It’s hard sometimes when you are cold, wet and tired, it’s the last thing you want to do sometimes and it’s worse if you leave it all to the last minute. I have a friend that I aspire to be with my book work. She writes down every day, the conditions, how long she was there for, which dogs did which rows, the rough number of kilos she thought she did and the exact amount later when she finds it out, if she works with other people she also notes their work too. This makes her an excellent person to work with. Having history, it makes predicting easier and you will pick up if something is wrong with your dogs or even the trufferie. Knowledge and how you use it is power. I also invested in a program called Xero and have a separate business bank account. This makes keeping track of where money comes and goes, makes invoicing easier. As my business has grown it has been able to grow with me.
Keep yourself accountable, write things down, and even tell people you are going to do something that way you are more likely to do it. It really helps how you move forward and keep your compass true. Having that accountability helps when things get tough. Having a person to call you out, and support you is fabulous too. Also the amount of times I see notes I have written and go oh man forgot about that is un-countable now.
What are going to do for the other 9 months of the year? After 10 years I have finally decided to try and make truffle hunting and dogs the full time gig. I have done seasonal work from fruit to horses and as my dog pack grew so did my time constraints. Always having at least 2 fit and able truffle dogs gets harder the longer you do it. Especially if you are like me and the dogs are family. Nugget is 16 and is now enjoying retirement as is Mia who has done her cruciate. I also need to have a dog in training. You can see how having a traditional job can be difficult. I have made it work out of necessity and as I become more invested in to the dog side of things something needed to give. You can’t do it all. Finding a job that works around you being unavailable for a minimum of 3 months a year and let’s be honest unless you are able to take your dogs to work with you in reality you at least need 5 to do the right thing by you and the dogs. What does this look like to you?
Invest in growing yourself, no one person knows everything about truffle dogs or training. A good trainer will constantly be looking for new and better ways to do things. Having a good mentor to grow and stretch you is super helpful and has exponentially grown me by spending money on where I need help and that will look different for everyone. For me going through a dog training program really helped me to understand I do have a lot to offer. I do have a skill that has been honed over many years. Mindset has been another big one for me. I had self-doubt and was always trying to follow and keep up, I need to walk my own path. Always look inward, where do you struggle most? Then put a plan in motion to grow it to a strength.
This year it’s going to be different. I am going to focus on my fitness, my dog’s fitness and wellbeing leading up to truffle season. I will not be justifying why I cost more in countless back and forward emails. I am worth it, and if someone doesn’t think so that’s ok, it just means I’m not the right fit and that’s ok too. I can’t hunt every trufferie in in the Southwest, or even in Pemberton, that is unachievable; I can however work with people who align with my values and who appreciate the money and time spent becoming and always growing being great at my job.
I hope this is helpful to someone, I would love to hear from you if it does. You can reach me either through my email - email@example.com or my Facebook page www.facebook.com/ThenaturaldogAus
Happy Training all!!