What Hauling Elephant Can Teach Business Owners

What Hauling Elephant Can Teach

Hauling an elephant to an early am call time in Hollywood wasn’t my favorite thing to do. Although we had an early departure time, I was still required to meet up with the head trainer at the ranch hours earlier. In addition to the dreaded rush hour commute, we needed to prep the elephant and load.

The drive to the ranch in the dark wasn’t unusual, at the time I worked there, it was the largest animal actor providing entity in the United States and so we did a lot of television and movie work. My favorite task was training on the ranch and spending time with my charges and collaborating and learning from other trainers there.

Truth be told, I didn’t care to work in “the industry” (as we called it) due to the long days and the common disregard for the animals–a norm back when I started my career.

Inside the dark elephant barn, it was quiet but the elephants began to stir when they heard the tractor trailer pull up. As the back-up trainer, I had to help load the hay bales, equipment, and other necessities in anticipation of what the elephant would need for the long day. Debra, the Asian elephant was asked to enter the trailer just prior to our set departure time.

Once loaded and on the road, the sway of the elephant in the back of the rig reassured me and informed me that she was fine. Although many assume differently, the movement of weight to the different legs and feet helps these pachyderms with vascular circulation. Care of the feet and mental stimulation are two important elements of elephant management and much was learned during the thousands of years the Asian elephants have been beasts of burden.

Although I don’t remember what the television shoot was about anymore, I do vividly remember that we had to load up and return to the ranch as there were no provisions for the elephant in the middle of Los Angeles. Arriving back 24 hours later and facing another call time only a few hours ahead, I was not very enthusiastic. The good news was that, the head trainer arranged for a different plan that was better for us and the elephant.

Why do I remember that job over others? During the long couple of days, he suggested I get my certification and license to operate big rigs. Known as tractor trailers, or semis, back then few women operated them. But as I learned early in my career, I listened and took action on those professional recommendations.

The result? I had another skill that would make me more competitive and also could be something to fall back on if I was so inclined. The reality was the road to certification was demanding and very uncomfortable. Few women put up with the stuff we had to but, if the dream is big enough, anything can be accomplished. And so, I passed the driving test and obtained my Class A license–which I still have today.

Over ten years later, I’d find myself working on the forefront of another type of elephant management system. It was great to be back among the elephants again…but my favorite times were spent under the shade trees of that first ranch, watching over the elephants or riding Debbie with my legs tucked snugly behind her ears secured around her enormous neck. I often ended hte night shift by pausing outside the elephant barn and listening to the deep breathing by the behemoths sleeping within before I headed home.

What Elephants Can Teach Lessons:

Find Mentors

Although book learning and some skills can help, nothing is as useful as finding a good mentor. Throughout my career I have been able to apprentice under some of the biggest names of the time. The knowledge passed down and connections shared by mentors can be used to help you in business or in navigating through a sea of sameness to find your unique position.

Be Teachable + Open To Feedback

When a veteran trainer made a suggestion on what I might do or gave me an action step, I would implement it. In business, learning from colleagues, attending industry specific conference, and adopting skills or strategies from other fields or industries can help you plot a course to faster success.

Do What it Takes

Long hours and paying your dues were standards of the industry when I began my animal career. Today I work smart instead of just hard but the important lesson is that in business, you need to do what it takes.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Taking action and doing something different is uncomfortable. The Citizens Band Radios (CBs) buzzed in the big rigs when we emerged for hands on training, and only a few owner operators let females gain the required drive observation time in the cab. In my class, two of us completed the course with about 60 males. It was certainly uncomfortable. It is an illustration that many people won’t venture into new territory, so you might try it to find an edge.

In business this might mean hiring out minor tasks so you can have time to work on the important projects or plans. Perhaps it means scheduling your day to set up for success…look for things that make you uncomfortable and become an adventure seeker. See things from a different perspective and get out of your comfort zone.

Try New Things

In my early days of training wild animals, we used buzzers, clickers and whistles along with the training industry standards of the time. However, when it came to the dog training methods, the old standards were still the status quo. Fast forward to the 1990s, the methods we were using in the late 70s and early 80s became a big trend. The veteran trainers always made suggestions and I would try them–including getting into the martial arts (so I could learn how to fall for stunt work) and big rig driving lessons. The takeaway for business is that it is good to try new things, there might be a better way to do things.

Decide What is Important

When it came to the animal welfare and the demands of the industry, sometimes it became necessary to decide what was important. Today animal welfare officers on the set assist trainers with making sure the director or production team don’t make unreasonable demands. Like the veteran trainer who arranged a different call time after a 24 hour day, make decisions and prioritize projects and activities. Sometimes decisions might involved your health or family–but go ahead a make a solid choice as it will make all the difference in your business and life.

Have you implemented any of the suggestions above? If so, pop over to share them on TheArkLady Facebook page.

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