A few weeks ago I was at the Atlanta Pet Fair. I always love this show. For me – it’s typically the first big show of the season. I get to see all my fellow pet professional friends and acquaintances. The trade show floor is always busy. I always have a great turn out at my lectures. And the competition ring is packed. This year was no different.
One thing I really noticed this year was how pet professionals represented themselves. I saw both good and bad – tasteful to tacky – and everything in-between.
One of my favorites was the cute little blond with her hair neatly pulled back in a stylish side ponytail wearing the little black hair-repellant dress in the contest ring. Her make-up was light yet very tastefully done. Her shoes matched. And she accessorized just enough to be elegant but not overdone. Or the young man in the ring. He was impeccably groomed himself right down to the matching bowtie. Both of these competitors where in my novice level class this weekend. I was so proud of the way they represented our industry. I would take my own dogs to them in a heartbeat.
I observed hundreds of people over the weekend. Unfortunately, I couldn’t say that about everyone. Even pet professionals I know and respect greatly, totally caught me off guard.
Folks – HELLO… If you want to be respected as a “professional” you have to act the part whenever you are in the public.
All. The. Time. Period.
I think it’s time to pull this blog back out for a reminder. I learned a long time ago with my early staff that I had to lead by example. My staff never saw me looking anything but professionally turned out. Even today, although I do not work in day-to-day operations, I would never dream of even stopping by one of my companies looking unprofessional. Even if I’m only dropping something off or would be there for a 15 minute meeting.
As pet care ambassadors, it’s our job to keep things looking professional. There are plenty of salons and pet businesses that fall far below the realm of professionalism in my opinion. I know the saying can be cheesy, but seriously, dress for success. Would you want to have your personal pet groomed by someone who doesn’t take pride in his or her own personal presentation?
Let’s put this in perspective. Have you ever been shopping around for a new hair stylist? What if you met her for the first time and her hair was so fried from chemicals it looked like it would break from the slightest touch? What if he smelled like he just left a smoky bar and was still wearing clothes so wrinkled you wondered if he slept in them? How confident would you be to let them style your hair? How are they going to make you look your best if they can’t be bothered to look theirs?
Would you trust a dentist who had rotten teeth?
I know it can get tiring to dress up a little every day. However, our clients are entrusting us with the care of their pets. Like it or hate it, you can easily influence their trust factor simply by the way you look when you greet your clients. Think of yourself like your own brand. Don’t you want your product to be consistent and look great? Of course! And your clients are looking for that, too.
A fashionable, well groomed appearance is essential when it comes to professionalism in this industry. When you are in a salon, kennel, pet resort, veterinarian clinic, or mobile grooming unit, you have to look the part. Come to work each day looking crisp, clean, and pulled together. Blue jeans and sweat pants ARE NOT professional attire! Black, white, or khaki slacks work well. Longer skirts are great for women and so are skorts in warmer climates. Conservative shorts or capris may work for your environment as well. I’ve even seen leggings work when paired with an oversized, long top or smock. Look for clothing that is not prone to wrinkling or learn to iron!
Today, there are many options for hair repelling garments. There are all types of tops and bottoms in a wide variety of styles. If you work in a salon with a dress code, this may be easier. If not, have some fun with the pet styling fashions that are available. Heck, even medical scrubs will work! It may even be a good idea to keep an extra outfit or smock around the shop as a back-up.
If you get drenched or messy, a quick change will instantly boost your comfort level and mood.
And gals, remember, low cut tops and short- shorts are never professional! If you have shorts that are too short or a top that is too revealing (especially when you are squatting down to pick up a dog), then you’re not displaying professionalism.
Don’t forget your footwear. Most pet groomers are on their feet for hours. You are standing, lifting, bending, squatting, and twisting – all day long. Although clients may not be looking at your feet, having solid, supportive footwear will promote comfort for you. Being comfortable allows you to be warm and friendly to all your clients. Supportive footwear will also enhance the longevity of your career. Over the long haul, your feet will take a beating. Don’t skimp on your footwear. Invest in the best.
Scent is a very powerful sense. When it comes to your perfume (or fragrance you put on pets) be light-handed with the spray. Many people have allergies and are sensitive to fragrance. Plus, if you have multiple staff members wearing all different scents, it can be unpleasant for all. The same can be said for your makeup and hair color. You want to appeal to a wide range of clients, so conservative is best in most cases. When in doubt, be a minimalist. Remember, you can always “be yourself” once you leave the shop.
While we are on scent – what about your breath? If you are communicating to others – clients or coworkers – bad breath is down-right offensive. Brush, floss, and use a mouth wash regularly. Not only will it save your teeth, your clients won’t be offended as you discuss what trim will work best on Fluffy. Breath mints and gum can be helpful between brushings. Lose the gum quickly once it has done its job. Chewing gum in front of clients is distracting and it is unprofessional in front of clients. The same can be said for eating and drinking on the floor. Keep snack and coffee breaks limited to behind closed doors.
Proper hygiene is crucial. It should go unsaid, but being clean and odor-free is a must. There is nothing more offensive – and embarrassing – than personal body odor. A famous quote from Zig Ziglar, who was a very successful motivational speaker, said, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” Nothing could be more true!
Your own hair needs to be clean and simply styled. If your hair is long, get it tied back and away from your face. As your work with clippers or shears, you don’t want to be trimming a lock of your own hair as you scissor that leg. I hate to think of how many people with long hair have caught their tresses in the spinning grinder as they worked. Ouch! Or worse yet, drag it through anal gland expressions, defecation, or urine.
Having a touch of jewelry is a nice finishing touch. Done well, it always reflects positively. However, just like with fragrance – go light. A few simple rings. A durable watch (you always need to know the time!!). If your ears are pierced – stick with super simple earrings, something a dog can’t accidently catch in their paw, ripping your ear lobe. If you opt for a necklace, keep it tasteful. Don’t be in love with it. Dogs will catch it in their paws and break it eventually. The same thing with is true with bracelets.
Having well groomed fingernails is what I consider a bonus. Working with dirty dogs and trimming toenails lends itself to dirty fingernails – even if you do a lot of bathing. Trimming poodle feet has a tendency to chip fingernails. Personally, I liked to keep my nails painted. Painted fingernails will hide all sorts of flaws. Unfortunately, when you do a lot of bathing standard nail polish has a tendency to peel off quickly – sometimes as quickly as one day. My solution was to have my fingernails professionally done every 2 weeks. Both acrylic and shellac nail applications seem to hold up well to the abuse groomers put their hands through. Plus, it gives you a little time to pamper your most valuable asset – YOUR HANDS!
Pay attention to the details. Judy Hudson is one our popular Learn2GroomDogs.com Training Partners. In her video, What I Know For Sure she shares this tip: It doesn’t cost a lot to be clean. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to be neat and tidy. All it takes is a little elbow grease.
As pet care ambassadors, not only is it our job to groom pets – but it’s also our job to present a professional image for our industry.
- At your place of business.
- At certification test sites.
- At trade shows.
- On the speaking circuit.
- In the competition ring.
- ANYWHERE you are representing the pet grooming profession!
I don’t know any successful person that doesn’t sweat the details. Being impeccable, both personally and in your workspace, shows the client that you care about yourself. The message you are sending out is that you are confident with your skills. You are successful. You respect yourself enough to do the same for them – and their pet.