We had the good fortune of connecting with Colleen Steckloff and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Colleen, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
I love sharing about the idea of Balance! It seems to be what we all strive to achieve. Funny thing about the topic of “balance” is that it is the focal point of my specialized industry. In the dog world, I am known as a Balanced Dog Trainer. This means that I use a balance of tools, techniques and human education to achieve a strong bond and communication between an owner and their dog or dogs. I also bring balance to their relationship. Many of my clients come to me thinking they need a human/human baby relationship, which is completely out of balance. I guide my clients into understanding the importance of a human/dog relationship. It would seem odd to have a horse and want to treat them like a fish, right? That is the same principle as teaching your dog like a human baby or your significant other! Professionally, my work life balance has changed significantly over the last 20 years since I founded LAK9s in 2001. I was young and I was hungry to make my mark. I was new to the training world and needed to soak up as much information as possible. Once I achieved my certification as a Profession Dog Trainer, I did not stop there. I would attend every seminar, workshop, or convention that had anything to do with training dogs. I studied from other proffessional dog trainers that often taught contradictory methods in behavior. At the end of the day, I would absorb all of the information that resinated with me on a instinctual and intellectual level and would let the excess go. I am so thankful that at that point of my life I could put all of my time into building my business, client relationships and a real understanding of my industry. Now fast forward 20 years and I have a large training facility on the westside of LA, plenty of employees, training students learning from me, a business partner whom happens to be my husband, oh and two young boys, both toddlers! So my work life has definitely changed. These days as a leader in my field, I am the one teaching the next generation of balanced trainers. I still focus on my own balance and continue to work with and learn from my peers. With a pandemic and 2 kiddos it is not so easy to fly around the world these days to work with dog owners and dogtrainers like I once did. I have been to almost all 50 states and 33 countries as a dogtrainer. While I miss that personal interaction, I can still connect with people. I have a group chat with other professional dogtrainers where we can just vent, share and learn. I do zoom meetings weekly with out of town dog owners and young dog trainers wanting to hone in on their skills. However these days, I cannot sustain the grueling schedule that once ran my life. I have employees that can handle more of the day to day goals while I focus on the bigger picture. Sharing these responsibilities was very tough at the beginning when you are used to doing everything yourself. However, being 8 1/2 months pregnant in the middle of the summer will definitely teach you how to ask for help and trust in your delegation of responsibilities. I mean, you just have to at that point, right! My husband, Dave, has been the most instrumental in helping me grow the business while not completely loosing myself in the process. But now we have the next challenge, balancing a marriage and a business together! We work on it daily with lots of communication and we continue to find our balance. In a typical relationship you may want to come home and tell your partner a story about something that happened a work. You are sharing your day and making conversation. However, when your partner is also your business partner that “story” can turn into a work meeting that no one planned for. It can be tough to navigate at times. We have not figured it all out, but we are both to always work on it. Now my toughest battle with balance, motherhood. I want to be the best mother to my boys. I want to share in their lives daily and to always be present. Easy, right? HA! I know I am not alone in my struggle and this has been the theme for most women regardless if they work or not. How to be a great mom and still reserve a little bit for you. I am so fortunate that I have been able to really make it work at times. You figure it out. You but the baby in a carrier, put the 3 year old on his push bike and have them join you at work while you are training a few dogs. Not only am I spending quality times with my kiddos, but I am also enriching my training session with real world distractions! Now believe me, it does not always work, but when it does it is pure gold. I know that Covid 19 has really done a number on parents this past year. We have learned to become school teachers, coaches and more while we are still balancing our careers and relationships. I believe once things are able to return to normal, we will be able to bring these new skills into our daily post pandemic life and we will be better at it than ever! This past year has really required us all to change, and hopefully change for the better! Our struggles are going to feel a little lighter and our goals a little closer!
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I became a dog trainer because I inherited a dog that was aggressive. As I sought out professional help, trainers would want to recruit me to work for them. I was a natural and suddenly everything in my life made sense. My passion, my joy and my instinct all met in agreement when I was working with dogs and their owners. One major detail that sets LAK9s apart, is that yes we are dog people, but we are people people too! Training dogs is important and there are plenty of good dog trainers out there. But teaching people effectively is what makes it work. Our slogan is, “Teach the Human to Lead and the Dog will Follow.”
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
One of my favorite spots in Los Angeles has always been Venice Beach! Walking your dog or skateboarding on the boardwalk and stopping off at one of the amazing restaurants or bars (when open) has always been such a treat. The beaches are fun for playing, relaxing or surfing. People from all over the world like to visit Venice and it has a strong sense of community. LA is surrounded by lots of hiking trails either coastal or up in the hills. This is by far the best way to really see LA. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to Shoutout to all the moms out there making it work!
Linkedin: Colleen Steckloff
Facebook: Colleen Steckloff Aguilera