If you want your business to thrive in any economy, you need insurance – and repeat business is your insurance plan.
During my recent lecture about client management at a large trade show, an audience member said something so amazing I knew I had to share it with you. I wish I had caught her name so I could give her full credit for her brilliant idea.
Professional groomers are always busy when the weather is warm. Most of us are booking out two to three weeks (or more) in advance. When the weather is toasty, people always want their pets groomed. The dogs are hot, dirty, and stinky. Even the once or twice per year clients start calling.
Where are those clients during the slower times when your appointment book needs filling? Those are the times when you wish you had more regular clients that book consistently every few weeks.
Those regular clients are your bread-and-butter. They keep your bills paid and food on your table. They are the ones you can count on. Any successful grooming salon wants a roster full of regular customers and the time to look for them is not when you’re slow. You need to get them while you’re at your busiest.
It’s not as crazy or as impossible as it sounds.
Remember that brilliant audience member? She said she always leaves at least one opening per day to accommodate walk-ins and new clients.
Some of you are shaking your heads. Why would you leave an appointment slot empty when you can fill it with a regular client? You’re probably thinking that you’re losing easy money.
Here’s where that insurance plan idea kicks in. The problem isn’t being booked out when the weather is nice. The problem is that you need to be booked no matter what kind of weather you’re having. You do that by adding clients – and when are new clients calling? The same time as everyone else.
A new client will not wait 2 or 3 weeks to book an appointment with you. They will just move on to the next groomer who set that time aside, just waiting for that client to call.
If you’ve nurtured a relationship with your regulars, they will wait for you. They love you. Their pets love you. Making sure to pre-book their next appointment ensures they get premier treatment and the best appointment times. The long-term investment you’ve made in keeping these customers happy will now start to pay off.
Setting aside those five slots a week is how that lady in the audience maintains a constant stream of new clients. These walk-ins become customers that she can educate and count on during the slower times of the year. As she builds up her regular clientele, she can eliminate the once or twice a year dogs. After all, wouldn’t you rather work on a super regular client instead of a twice a year outdoor farm dog?
$100 for a once a year farm dog seems like a lot of money – but is it?
Let’s say you have a 6-week regular client who pays $50 per visit. That’s half of the once a year farm dog. You are going to see that client eight to nine times a year. On an annual basis, you’re going to earn between $400 and $450 for that single client.
The farm dog? You will earn $100. $100 you can’t count on next month or next year.
Which would you rather do?
If you do not make time in your schedule to take on new customers, you might miss out on adding a valuable client that will keep your bills paid when it’s slow. This client could make the difference between working or being sent home because you don’t have any dogs to groom.
Which salon would you rather work at?
As a bonus, making room in an already packed schedule allows you some wiggle room. Maybe you don’t have a walk-in on that day. Or maybe you don’t have a new customer calling to book an appointment. That open slot allows you a little breathing room. Probably at a time when you most need it.
Do you have to take every first-time appointment or walk-in coming through your doors? Absolutely not.
I would ask for some critical information before you get too far into the conversation. Of course, the customer will want to know the price. That gives you the opportunity to learn the breed, the age, the size, the coat condition, and how long it’s been since his last professional grooming. These questions will help you determine whether you should book the appointment. Trust your gut with what the client says. It’s your appointment book.
When you do make room for a new client, make sure you also take the time to educate them. Most clients don’t know how frequently they should have their dogs (or cats) groomed. Talk to them about their lifestyle and how much maintenance they’re willing to do between appointments. Talk about what you can do for them as well their limitations based on the condition of the pet. Custom create a regular schedule that will suit their needs and keep their pet looking and feeling its best.
Will you get it right every time? No. But if you don’t make room for prospective new customers during your busiest times, you won’t have regular clients to carry you through when it’s slow.
When you attend trade shows and clinics, preparing in advance can help you make the most of this experience. Seminars are a great way to improve your skills and recharge your batteries. Meeting your mentors and soaking up their knowledge is a fantastic opportunity, and if you can see and hear them in action, it maximizes the experience. When you know what you need and what you hope to get out of the session, you can better prepare yourself to squeeze out as much as you can from your time together.
If you are young and fresh to the industry, the amount of information that you get can be intimidating. Listen, take notes, and soak up every bit of knowledge that you can. Sometimes that may mean suspending what you know in order to make room for something new. Trying new techniques or ideas can be uncomfortable just because you’ve never tried it before. Keeping an open mind enables you to break from your routine to get different results. With time and practice, the awkwardness goes away and you become more efficient. Remember: having more tools, techniques, and knowledge allows you to have multiple approaches to a problem.
Many trainers at these sessions have limited time. They are often rushing from one obligation to another – judging competitions, speaking in seminars, or providing hands-on clinics. If they can, many will take the time to answer your questions. If you know what you need to ask, it helps you make the best use of the brief time you may have together. Be prepared – write down your questions in advance so you don’t forget something important or stumble over your words. Being ready to participate in the learning experience helps you make the best use of the session – and the presenter will respect you for it.
With so much to see and do at trade shows, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Break out the catalog and study the floor plan before you arrive. Map out your plan of attack to make sure you get to everything you need to see. Some shows have free apps you can download to help make the most out of your experience. Know the schedule of events so you don’t miss that speaker you’ve been hoping to see. Sometimes it’s good to go to shows like this with a friend – divide and conquer, then compare notes later.
As your knowledge and skills advance, the clinics won’t be as daunting. They will become a great way for you to fine-tune your skills. You can begin to network and exchange thoughts with others in the industry who can provide insight when you need it. Plus, these types of functions are a great way to invigorate your career.
These principles remain valid for many forms of advanced learning in the pet grooming industry. Maybe you don’t have the opportunity to do a hands-on training session. There is a wealth of information to learn from these all-star pet stylists. You might be in the audience at a trade show, pet grooming competition or watching a grooming video lesson featuring one of these top stylists. The better you can execute the core skills with your everyday grooming, the easier it will be to successfully transfer their lessons to your own grooming table.
If you are not as accomplished as these award-winning and highly successful pet groomers are – take note. You can learn a lot from their well-developed skills. Learning new skills, tips, and tricks make grooming pets all that more fun!
Imagine that you have been in the boarding kennel and grooming business for over 16 years. You have three groomers, three kennel techs, and one bather depending on your business for their livelihood. On August 25, 2017 Hurricane Harvey would come ashore and life as you know it would be changed forever. Your hometown of Lumberton, Texas, is now completely underwater.
This is a real scenario for many groomers who – like 80% of Texans – did not have flood insurance and have lost absolutely everything. The people in this story are real and they are currently unemployed after the destruction of Hurricane Harvey.
That’s just one grooming-related family affected by this hurricane. There are hundreds more experiencing very similar situations.
Currently, a second hurricane is bearing down on the United States. Experts say it is still too early to determine exactly where and how strong Hurricane Irma will be. It is projected to be a Category 5 hurricane as it hits Puerto Rico, which is directly in Irma’s path.
With any tragedy comes the need for people to reach out and help others. Finding the right avenue(s) to contribute can be daunting. Unfortunately, there will be those who take unfair advantage of the situation. It is for this reason the Groomers Emergency Assistance Fund (GEAF) was formed. The GEAF is an IRS registered non-profit 501c (3) Corporation.
The GEAF grew from the turmoil caused by superstorm Sandy. Local groomers that were unaffected by the tragedy helped those who were less fortunate. Groomers and industry-related companies across the country contributed what they could. They helped both financially and with equipment donations. Donors were confident that their efforts would go directly into the hands of a groomer. The GEAF had a direct impact on getting those affected by Hurricane Sandy up and running again.
The goal of the GEAF is to help relieve the immediate needs of groomers in distress. These are groomers who may have lost their businesses, equipment, or even their homes in the path of tragedy. GEAF helps groomers in need within the continental United States plus Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
Applicants are vetted to ensure they will qualify for aid. Insurance policies are reviewed and volunteers help the applicants get the most out of their policies. They are walked through FEMA applications by professional volunteers.
We need your help to make their efforts go even further!
If every groomer and salon owner reading this would donate the price of just one groom a day or even a week, imagine the impact it would have! GEAF could help scores of pet professionals. Remember, every little bit helps.
If you’re able, we’d love it if you could donate even $5.00. The greater your generosity, the larger the impact GEAF can make. All donations are tax-deductible under the 501c (3) Corporation classification.
Thank you in advance for your contribution. Your donation will go toward putting food on tables, roofs over heads, and groomers back to work.
c/o Judi Cantu Thacker
2640 Hadley Circle
Sugar Land, TX 77478
Equipment needing sharpening or refurbishing (clippers, blades, shears, etc.) can be sent to:
Frank Rowe & Son
26 South Union Street
Middletown, PA 17057
The GEAF wants to help every affected groomer keep a roof over their heads, food on their tables and grooming tools in their hands. Every dime you contribute goes directly to help a sister or brother pet stylist. Every piece of equipment goes directly to someone who really needs it.
At the time this blog was published, over $9,000 has been donated to help those in need. Are you able to help?
P.S. You can learn more about the Groomers Emergency Assistance Fund at www.geaf2013.org or their Facebook page. They can do more than just offer financial assistance when emergencies hit our fellow grooming brothers and sisters!
I still remember how frustrated I got when I first started grooming.
I was the assistant, doing mostly bathing and drying for the groomer. One day, she was overbooked and was falling deeply behind schedule. She had a basic “all trim” on a larger dog that she hadn’t even started yet. Out of desperation she asked if I would remove some of the coat before the bath.
I thought to myself, “Sure, why not? How hard could it really be?” I picked up the A2 clipper as the groomer handed me the appropriate head. I twisted it on and set to work.
What a mess. The dog wasn’t hurt but my work was awful. The dog was full of uneven coat and lots of tracking.
The groomer had always made it look so easy. Coat seemed to melt off like a hot knife through butter. Her clipper work was always smooth and even. No track marks. No sticky-outies.
This was not nearly as easy as I thought!
However, I stuck with it.
The groomer coached me as I struggled with the second side. It turned out somewhat better but was far from perfect. Today, I would not consider my work that day as acceptable – not even as pre-work before the bath. It was that bad! Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about all the tracking. It was just the rough cut before the bath. Once the dog was clean and blown dry, the groomer finished it in no time.
Fast forward 10 years. I had mastered the clippers and figured out how to eliminate tracking in the coat. On rare occasions, I still had problems. By that time, I was in my own mobile grooming van and running my own business. One of my clients was a buff American Cocker whose owners wanted clipper cut.
Most of you who have been groomers for any amount of time know some buff-colored Cockers track terribly when clipper cutting. This dog was no exception.
It didn’t matter what blade I chose.
It didn’t matter how powerful the clipper was.
It didn’t matter what time of year it was.
The. Coat. ALWAYS. Tracked.
On one appointment, I basically threw my hands up. I could not get the tracking out of the coat. I had used all the tricks I knew to no avail. As I sat there contemplating how to remove the lines, I had an idea. What would happen if I reversed a blade over this coat? Hmmm. At that point, I figured I didn’t have much to lose.
I tried out the technique on an obscure spot on the dog’s body. I reversed a #7F blade then stepped back to check my work. I realized it was going to be way too short. I bumped up to a longer #4F blade. When I tried again – it was perfect. It was the length of a #7 blade. And even better, it was baby butt smooth. Eureka!
Over the years, I’d figured out how to get all coat types super smooth, but this Cocker type coat had always given me trouble. Once I mastered that coat type, coat tracking was a thing of the past for me.
So how do you get coat super smooth without any tracks?
There is not one simple answer but there are lots of techniques and trouble-shooting options. Here are a few tricks that I discovered with years of practice.
Every coat type is a little bit different. Some coats barely track at all. Others are almost impossible to get smooth. Learning how to minimize tracking takes time and practice. Mastering a smooth clipper cut in the least amount of time takes focus and attention to details.
There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to mastering clean perfect clipper work. Groomers who have mastered a track free simple “All Trim,” on a regular small to medium-sized can groom a pet in one hour or less.
If you struggle with this problem, my book, Notes from the Grooming Table, has a very detailed section about clipper work in the front of the book. My Learn2GroomDogs.com streaming video platform also has some great videos about efficient clipper work in the Core Video Category. Make sure to check out those two educational resources. If you work with a team of stylists, someone within your group might be able to coach and mentor you. You can also look for local clinics or workshops where you can work with a seasoned professional.
Learning to master skills helps us get ahead in our work and lives. To do this you need to have a deep understanding of the skill you are trying to perfect. You also need the dedication to put in the needed time and deliberate practice.
“Deliberate practice,” was introduced by researcher, Anders Ericsson who studied this concept for over 30 years. His research shows HOW you practice matters much more than HOW MUCH you practice.
Deliberate practice isn’t running a few miles each day, strumming a guitar for 20 minutes each morning, or grooming a few dogs each day. Deliberate practice is much more purposeful and focused. It might take you five to ten years of deliberate practice to truly master a skill.
To improve anything, you must push beyond your comfort zone. This process can be very difficult. Letting go of what is safe and learning to get comfortable with the unknown is hard for most of us. For some, it is impossible. But when you put sincere effort toward improving a weakness, you will grow.
To become great, experts focus on improving their weaknesses. Practicing on easy things never leads to improvement. Working hard just to work will exhaust you. Working purposefully towards improving is the secret to success.
It doesn’t matter whether you are trying to master a specific breed profile, specialize in a grooming technique, increase your speed, or skillfully run your business. To master any task, you need to focus and practice in a purposeful way.
When I began a career with dogs, it didn’t take long before I knew I wanted to perfect my skills. I wanted to master pet grooming. I found mentors and coaches who could give me feedback. I read books. I studied images – photos of my own work as well as champions. I intently watched master pet stylists at work. I attended clinics and workshops. I tested my skills in the certification and competition rings. I always asked for feedback and focused on improving my work. I practiced. And practiced. And practiced.
Today, I work with a business coach. Almost every week we have a 90-minute conference call. We focus on our weakest link and ways to improve it. The following week, we review what worked and what didn’t work – then move on to the next weak item on the agenda. Having a coach keeps me accountable, focused, and on track.
Remember – start small. Self-improvement can feel overwhelming. You can’t take on everything. If you do, you’ll feel defeated and never succeed at any of it. Instead, choose one or two skills to focus on at a time. Break down the skill into manageable chunks. Set goals. Get feedback and track your progress.
Along the learning journey, stop to reflect. When you want to move from good… to great… to mastery, you need to stop and spend time reflecting on what you’re doing. If you don’t, the new skill won’t stick. Talk to your mentor, coach, or someone you respect as you go. Talking about your progress assists in getting valuable feedback. It keeps you accountable and it cements the changes.
Be patient with yourself. You are not going to reach perfection right away. Mastery requires perfecting many smaller skills and then putting them all together. It could take months to perfect a single new sub-skill. It will take years to truly master a particular technique or specialize in a field.
You can use these techniques on anything you want to improve or master. Many of us can do something well. True mastery takes it to a much deeper level.
Do you have what it takes to become a master?