There is plenty of information available today about how to keep and breed geckos.  With forums, articles, books, radio programs, social networking, and online resources, just about anybody can become a gecko keeper or even a breeder.  Whether you are inclined to be a hobbyist, serious collector, or aspire to become a legitimate business, it is staying power that will either make you or break you.  It’s my hope that the information and testimony I give in this article will help you develop this staying power which could keep you going strong for twenty years, or even more!

What Does it Take?

It may be difficult for many of you to comprehend how, or even why, someone would stay in the gecko business for 20 years.  I’m sure every 20+year veteran in the hobby has their own distinct motivation, whether it be money, prestige, a special interest, “the need to breed”, or simply the joy of keeping these beautiful, gentle creatures.  Keep in mind that many things in life are attainable, but not always maintainable.  There are several factors involved in maintaining what you have achieved, but there is one important element we all have in common … PASSION.  This means having the desire, obsession, enthusiasm, and zeal for the animals and the hobby.  Without it, success is short lived.

The second factor necessary to achieve longevity as a breeder is COMMITMENT.  This means that you must be dedicated, responsible, devoted, obligated, reliable and loyal to the animals, customers, and the hobby.  We’ve all heard it said that “customers come first”.  I disagree in this case.  My animals have been, and always will be, first in importance.  After all, if I do not have beautiful, healthy, and robust geckos, I will not have any customers!   This doesn’t mean that customers aren’t important, it simply means that the health, well-being, needs, and safety of the geckos takes priority over all else.  The level of commitment required to attain and maintain credibility and longevity as a breeder must be upheld consistently, and it shows in everything you say and do.

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Honesty and Community

We hear a lot about dishonest gecko breeders, whether it be implied or proven.  Fact is, that the vast majority of these breeders are in it solely for money and usually don’t stick around for very long.  HONESTY and TRANSPARENCY are paramount if you plan to be a long-time breeder.  Full disclosure about the ancestry, genetics, health, and particular physical or behavioral issues regarding your geckos should be provided to potential customers so they can make informed decisions about purchasing or adopting them.  I have always been honest and transparent with my customers and have made it a part of my business style.  I have even gone public about many of my major failures and mistakes.  I had a very reputable breeder ask me if it worried me that my reputation might get tarnished if I disclosed ‘everything’ to the gecko community.  I had to answer that it was more important to me to share this information so we can all learn from it to prevent it from happening again.  I would be more concerned about reputation if I withheld critical information, or gave false information.  Basically, I have nothing to hide about my animals, husbandry, breeding projects, and that includes mistakes and heartbreaks.

Being a part of a COMMUNITY means gathering together with others who share a common interest, and forming an identity and active role of cooperation and support based on aligning our mutual philosophies and collective goals.  Everything we say or do affects the way the community functions as a whole, and sometimes we all need to take the high road and hang our egos at the door.  A community cannot function properly, or survive, with hatred, anger, jealousy, envy, gossip, sabotage, and “behind the scenes guerilla warfare”.  Lack of RESPECT towards other members of a community causes decay and will disintegrate the very foundation of the cooperative spirit amongst its collective representatives.  Try to avoid falling into the trap, and stay neutral if possible.  There will always be people in life that aggravate us, and those we dislike.  However, we should stop and realize that those who may rub us the wrong way still love their geckos and are part of the community.  Try and keep your energy focused on what really matters in the midst of the all of the drama and turmoil… our geckos!

Education and Ethics

EDUCATION.  This is something that has such importance I could write an entire article on this subject!  In order to be an expert, two things are required:  education and experience.   It doesn’t mean you need a college degree and ten years of experience to be an expert, but just because you read it online or looked it up on Google does not an expert make!   Keeping yourself informed and educated on the latest products, husbandry techniques, veterinary ailments and treatments, morphology, and genetics will help you keep your head above water in an ever-changing environment.  I have found that one of the best ways to really learn something is to teach it to someone else.  Share what you have learned, either through research or experience, and give credit where credit is due.  Stick to the facts, and let others have the opportunity to glean information from you!

Everyone expects and appreciates good SERVICE.  I believe in excellent service.  When I receive excellent service I give generous tips, give kudos to an employee’s supervisor, repeat doing business, and refer other customers.  Raise the bar a notch or two by going above and beyond when providing customers and potential customers with help, information, and communication.  It means returning phone calls and other correspondence in a timely manner, and following through with promises and commitments. Most of all, make sure your customers are informed and confident about your ability as a breeder.  Give the superior service you would expect yourself.  Strive for excellence.

What all of this boils down to is work ethic.  ETHICS are the moral beliefs and principles by which you live and abide.  Everyone has their own code of ethics, but basically these are the standards we set, as individuals or a community, that dictate what is right and what is wrong.  Since I have already written an article on ethics in a previous issue here in “Gecko Time”, I suggest you go back and find it so it doesn’t need to be repeated here.  (I do tend to repeat myself…)

Although I could go on and on, SET AN EXAMPLE.  If you can follow the preceding suggestions and incorporate them into your own distinct, personal style, you can be an example for the community.  Not one of us is perfect or exempt from error, but a mistake honestly made and openly acknowledged can mean the difference in everyone’s success or failure.  The longer you maintain your staying power, remain passionate, committed, honest and transparent, make yourself a contributing part of the community, continue learning and educating others, strive to provide excellent service, develop exceptional ethics, and finally… set an example for all, you will establish CREDIBILITY and INTEGRITY.  This is what will see you through two, or more, decades as a gecko breeder!

Marcia McGuinnessVisit Website

Marcia McGuiness has been the owner of Golden Gate Geckos for 20 years, where she has worked with Leopard Geckos, African Fat-tails, Australian smooth and rough Knobtails, Australian Thick-tails, and Western Banded Geckos.  She has authored many articles, been an active advisor on several gecko-related online communities, as well as hosted and made guest appearances on Blog Talk Radio.  Marcia is coming to the end of her legacy as she and her husband prepare to retire to their home in Mariposa, CA., in the Sierra foothills near Yosemite National Park.

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