Paying Groomers – What is Fair?

November 16th, 2017 by Joelle

How and what professional groomers get paid is always a hot topic. There are so many variables:

  • Hourly?
  • Commission?
  • Pay rates?

MoneyOver the years I’ve tested just about every possible combination of scenarios to try to determine what was fair, what worked, and what didn’t.

When I started my first business, I groomed in the vans right beside my mobile groomers. My team earned 50% commission of the grooming charges. We also had an extra “house call charge” for the front door service per stop (not per dog).

My mobile fleet grew from one van to six in about five years. Plus, I added a grooming salon to the mix. We were busy all the time. However, every once in a while, cash got tight.

Have you ever been there?

As we grew, the cash flow would have high and low swings. When the swing went up, it was fun, and I could reinvest in the company. I would buy another van and pay for continuing education for both myself and my team. We celebrated when we met sales quotas.

Occasionally, I would struggle to make a payment. If catching up got too deep and available cash got tight, I would grab a credit card. In those moments, I needed to keep the vans on the road and take care of expenses no matter how high the interest rates.

The busier we got, the less I paid attention to the finances. After all, we were all working and bringing in money. It was inconceivable to think we wouldn’t have enough money to pay the bills or commission.

Quote In A CircleBut then it happened.

A payroll check bounced. The lights got turned off. The phone service got shut off.

Each of these stressful, embarrassing, and terrifying moments are the hard lessons many business owners face.

Early in my career, I didn’t pay attention to the financial health of my business. It was a painful lesson I needed to learn the hard way. I was losing sleep over it and after more than one negative incident, I vowed never to let it happen again.

Detailed bookkeeping wasn’t my forte – I would rather have been grooming. However, I bit the bullet and invested in a bookkeeper. She was much wiser than I when it came to money matters. She made sense of the income and the expenses and I started paying attention to my cash flow.

We worked closely together and each month she would create a profit and loss statement for me. It would contain all the standard categories along with monthly and year-to-date figures. Plus, she added a column that tracked the percentage of expenses to sales.

The percentages were critical. No matter how rapidly we grew, I started to see trends in the percentages. It allowed me to easily track the fiscal health of my companies at a glance.

Early in my first mobile business, the only thing really saving the company was the house call charge on top of the grooming fee. Little did I realize how detrimental a 50% commission rate was to the health of a business. It’s very hard to run a profitable company when you pay out almost half of your grooming revenue.

It’s even more challenging if you had W-2 employees vs. independent contractors (but that’s a whole ‘nother blog!). In the state of Michigan, an estimated 13% was paid in payroll tax obligations for my staff based on their wages.

Look at the chart below. If you are a commissioned groomer/stylist, find your rate. Next, find your average price per dog. For example, if you earn a 50% commission rate and the average ticket price of the dog is $50, you would be earning $25 per dog.

CHART_1

Did you find your place on the chart?

Notice what happens to the earning potential when pets are priced higher, yet the commission rate is lower?

Where would you rather work – at a salon with lower-priced dogs but at the 50% rate or at a higher priced salon with a lower commission?

The commission rate isn’t the true barometer of your earning potential. The price per dog combined with the commission rate is what you need to look at. Even if a commission rate is 38% but the average ticket price is $70, you would be earning $1.60 MORE than the 50% commission rate at $50 average grooming price.

Don’t get hung up on the commission rate. Pay attention to the average price per pet COMBINED with a commission rate. Then, do the math. It might surprise you!

In the next set of charts, I want to demonstrate what happens to a business paying out a 50% commission rate to employees. In these examples, I have simplified salon expenses. Most salons will have a longer list of expenses. The examples show how the numbers would play out over the course of a year. As you look through the amounts, notice what happens.

A

I have used a 50% commission rate for salon generating $150,000 per year.

 

B

The salon is generating $210,000 annually while paying out a commission of 50% to the groomers.

 

C

The salon is still generating $150,000 per year but now the commission rate has fallen to 44%.

 

D

The grooming commission rate is 44% but the average ticket price increased per dog, earning the salon $210,000 annually.

 

In example A, the salon is clearing $5,910 for the entire year or less than $500 each month.

If you are a salon owner, I’m guessing you did not get into business to run a nonprofit company. In this scenario, that’s pretty much what’s happening.  Remember, I simplified the outgoing costs of the businesses. Most salons will have more bills to pay than reflected in this example.

If you are an employee working at a salon paying 50%, you feel it every day. The lack of cash flow filters through. Chances are, the salon struggles to make ends meet. It has to cut corners. One financial hiccup can send it into a downward spiral.

The only way a 50% commission-based salon can truly make ends meet is if the salon owner is also one of the groomers. Another option is to have other streams of income other than just grooming.

Raising prices and dropping the commission rates is in the best interest of a business. It creates a cash flow buffer which takes the pressure off everything and everyone. It allows the business to thrive instead of struggle. It allows for higher-quality products, equipment, and education. These items make the workspace more enjoyable while minimizing burnout and maximizing quality.

Most salon owners and their employees are among the most passionate people I know. We’re hard workers and love pets. Owners and staff need to work together as a team. Everyone needs to understand what the numbers look like in order to have an enjoyable work environment.

My professional grooming department at Whiskers Resort & Pet Spa currently runs with a team of seven stylists and three grooming assistants. The team has both full- and part-time employees. The sliding-scale commission rates range from 38% – 44% for full grooms based on client satisfaction, rebooking, and financial quotas. Stylists earn lower commissions on simple bath and brush pets requiring less time. Stylists can bounce up and down the tier system based on the previous quarter’s performance. Grooming assistants are paid hourly based on experience and performance. On average, the grooming department’s commission payroll runs between 36% and 43% of gross sales. With lower commission rates, we can afford to pay the assistants and a portion of the customer service team who books all the grooming appointments.

Even with lower commissions, the average ticket price runs between $65 and $70 per dog. Based on personal motivation and experience, stylists groom an average six to 12 dogs a day. As a bonus, on a typical day, a stylist can also earn anywhere from $30 – $80 in tips on top of their commission rates. This department is flourishing, and the turnover is extremely low.

Salon owners, if you don’t have a firm handle on how the dollars stack up, I encourage you to track them and pay attention. If you don’t want to deal with it yourself (like me!), hire a bookkeeper. Then work closely with them and learn. They love to tinker with numbers the same way we like to tinker with dogs!

I encourage you to compare the charts. Check out the numbers. Think about how you fit within these examples. Then run your OWN numbers and see how you stack up. It does not matter whether you are the salon owner or a commissioned stylist. The numbers don’t lie and are the key to EVERYONE’S financial health and success.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_white

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Bubble Baths and the Holiday Grooming Rush?

November 9th, 2017 by Joelle

If you have a reasonably busy salon and have been at this for a few years, you know the holidays mean crunch time. You’ll be grooming most of your regular clients in days instead of weeks. Do you have control of your schedule?

main image tubYou may find yourself racing to juggle the demands of your business and your family. Keeping your customers happy is crucial to the health of your salon, but not at the expense of those you love. Don’t let the insanity of the holiday season put a damper on your festive mood.

I learned the hard way. Grooming super long hours up to 14 days straight before Christmas left me totally exhausted and spent. I was definitely a Scrooge throughout the entire holiday season. I knew I had to make a change when one Christmas I literally slept through the entire day.

Here are a few ideas from myself and my team of seasoned grooming pros to help you make the most of the holiday rush.

Be Prepared with Dispensable Products

Make sure all your supplies are stocked up and organized. The last thing you want is to run out of anything! Here is a shopping list to help you.

blog list

Walk around your salon well ahead of the rush. Open doors, look in cabinets, and check drawers. You want to have everything stocked up and at your fingertips. There’s nothing better than doing a thorough walk-through and making a list of supplies you need.

Stick to Your Schedule

Plan out your days. Just prior to a major holiday, the demands on your schedule can quickly spiral out of control. Do you want to work your normal schedule or add on a few hours here or there? Some professionals add work days to their week to accommodate clients. The choice is yours. Whatever you decide, make sure your best clients are pre-scheduled in premier slots in your appointment book. Ideally, it’s best to do this well before the holiday season hits.

Know your limitations. Know what your obligations are to your clients and family. Create a schedule that works for you – and then stick to it. It’s okay to say no.

Quote In A CircleFood Is Your Fuel

As tempting as it may be, surviving the holiday rush on the wonderful food gifts your clients bring is not the best option! Early in my career, I learned the hard way that cookies, candies, nuts, and other holiday treats can’t help you operate at peak performance.

Eat. Real. Food. If it comes from a window at a drive-through, it does not qualify as real food, in my book. Equally important, attempt to bypass any processed foods.

Prepare. Shop the perimeter of your grocery store. Focus on fresh foods. Take a day to prepare large batches of healthy food. Then pre-package it in individual servings. Freeze anything you can.

Cook ahead of time. Never tried batch cooking before? There are plenty of ideas on Pinterest and YouTube. Or simply double or triple your favorite recipes. Personally, my attitude is if I’m going to cook, I’m going to fill the grill, load up the oven or pull out my largest pot. It doesn’t take much more time to double or triple a recipe once you get started.

Make good choices. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s fast and easy to eat. Juices and smoothies are great on-the-go items. Hard-boiled eggs are economical and easy. Sliced fruits, veggies, and lean proteins keep energy levels high. Drink plenty of water.

Know your options. If you don’t want to do the cooking yourself, stock up on menus from your favorite restaurants and choose healthier items that help you maintain a consistent energy flow throughout the day.

Train Your Clients

Some days you have time to visit with your clients. However, the holiday season is not one of them. Train them to respect your time – even if you are mobile. It’s your responsibility to make sure every pet gets your full attention and it’ll be hard to do that if you’re running behind all day.

There are ways to tactfully and politely remind them you have an extremely busy schedule. A big smile and a genuine thank you can go a long way when you need to keep moving.

holiday-stressTake Time to Breathe

The holidays are a special time. Not just for your family, friends, and your clients – but also for yourself. It’s important to reserve quality time for every part of your life.

Having grooming systems firmly in place allows you to be highly efficient. The more seasoned you are, the more likely you have mastered this technique. It comes in handy when your time is limited.

Essential oils can use helpful to energize yourself or slow yourself down. Some brands come up with blends or you can make your own. They can be diffused in the air, inhaled directly from their bottles, or added to bath water. Many oils can be applied directly to the skin.

Common oils for relaxation would be lavender, lemon, ylang-ylang, geranium, and frankincense. A few essential oils used to increase energy are peppermint, white fur, lemon, and basil. Many of the citrus based oils have the ability to uplift and de-stress.

Carve out a little special time for yourself. Maybe it’s a soothing bubble bath at the end of a long day. Some people love massages or manicures. Others enjoy sitting down for a few quiet minutes to decompress with a beverage of choice.

The holiday season can be magical – even if it is one of your busiest times. The best way to ward off being a Scrooge is to do some planning. Think about the upcoming weeks leading to the new year. Take control. Put pen to paper and plan your schedule. Know where the crunch times are and when you have a window of space.

A little bit of thought and planning can go a long way to make the holiday season both financially rewarding, personally enjoyable, and filled with blessings and gratitude.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_white

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Challenging Dogs on the Grooming Table

October 26th, 2017 by Joelle

Blog ImageWhen I first started working with dogs, I worked with a groomer who didn’t have a lot of patience with them. Dogs danced. They panted and drooled. They sat down – a lot. They growled, pulled, snapped, and bit. The groomer was constantly struggling. It did not take long before I began to think most dogs were naughty on the grooming table.

Eventually, the groomer moved on and I got a promotion. I went from being a kennel worker to grooming. It was not an advancement I was looking forward to.

I came from a horse background. The better I understood the behavior and psychology of horses, the stronger horsewoman I became. The horses I worked with became my partners. We were a team. When you’re dealing with large animals, that’s exactly what you want.

I quickly applied this concept to the dogs I was working with every day. Sure, I had to learn the haircuts. More importantly, I had to learn how to win their trust and cooperation. I needed to get inside the mind of a dog.

This idea was confirmed when I went to a large dog show in Chicago. I was working on learning how to identify breeds and learn their haircuts. There was a special bonus about attending the show. Barbara Woodhouse, a world-renowned UK dog trainer, was there. She was going to be working with some difficult dogs. It was one of her specialties.

I remember sitting in the audience looking down onto the floor of the auditorium. She was working with an Afghan Hound in full coat. She had a light show lead on the dog but the dog would not walk. It had to be carried to the center of the arena. When the dog was set down, it curled up in a small ball, trying to become invisible. It was clearly terrified.

Barbara Woodhouse approached the dog with confidence. She bent over the dog and soothed it with long methodical strokes to its head and ears while speaking in a very calming sing-song type voice. Even from a distance, I could see the dog starting to relax.

Within moments, she coaxed the dog into a standing position. However, it was evident the dog was still very scared.

Mrs. Woodhouse continued in her sing-song voice, explaining what she was doing while giving reassurance to the dog. She gently and methodically moved her hands over the dog’s body. The Afghan was slowly starting to relax. It’s topline leveled out. Its head started to come up. As she got towards the rear of the dog, she let her hand slide to the inside of the thigh and gently stroked the inside of the leg.

Quote In A CircleThe dog gave a yawn and then a shake. She softly praised the behavior. The dog’s tail came up as it looked to Mrs. Woodhouse for direction. With that, she asked the dog to move forward. It did. Within moments she had the dog fully gaiting on a show lead around the arena. It was amazing.

I will never forget how she was able to gently and confidently work the dog out of its fear in just minutes.

I thought to myself, if Barbara Woodhouse could have such a quick and positive effect on this dog, I needed to learn how to have the same effect.

When I first started grooming, many dogs coming into the salon lacked confidence. They were uncooperative. They struggled. I needed to win their trust. Watching Barbara Woodhouse taught me handling was a learnable skill I needed to master.

I became fascinated with dog behavior, psychology, canine body language, and natural dog training. I read training books by Barbara Woodhouse and Carol Lea Benjamin. I studied canine behavior and psychology. I spent hours watching dogs naturally interact with one another and with humans. I thoroughly enjoyed learning how to use Tellington TTouch® develop by Linda Tellington-Jones. TTouch influences animals in a way that develops trust, and helps forms a harmonious bond between the pet and the person. It can also have a positive effect toward changing unwanted behavior.

Before long, I had very few difficult dogs to work with. Dogs who had been challenging to handle were becoming calm and cooperative. As I gained more experience, it took only moments to gain the trust and respect of my four-legged clients.

Here are a 15 of my favorite handling thoughts and practices:

  1. Dogs are hardwired to think like dogs.
  2. Dogs live in the present.
  3. Dog take their clues from their handler, so set limitations, rules, and boundaries immediately.
  4. The canine species is a pack animal – dogs need to accept and respect us as the pack leader.
  5. The word NO is one of the most overused words in the dog’s home environment – use a different sound or word to indicate undesirable behavior.
  6. Never work on a pet you feel is dangerous to itself or to you.
  7. Always maintain the 3 C’s: Calm – Cool – Collected.
  8. Dogs are silent communicators and are highly responsive to your energy.
  9. Never take an unfamiliar pet directly from the owner’s arms.
  10. Always maintain some form of physical control – properly adjusted leads or safety loops.
  11. Be a life-long learner of canine psychology and body language.
  12. Not all pets are candidates for all professional grooming settings.
  13. Humanity always comes before vanity.
  14. If the eyes glow red or green – don’t groom the dog.
  15. Your hands are your livelihood – always protect them.

Personal self-confidence stems from education and experience. Continue to learn new ways to communicate with the pets you handle. The more self-confidence you have, the more successfully you will work with animals.

Never put a dog in danger. Always use respectful but effective handling methods. Do not let your emotions get the best of you. Don’t let frustration get in the way.

Always know how your equipment performs and what can happen if you do not use it properly. You need to establish yourself as a pack leader but never at the expense of the dog.

For most of us, grooming dogs is a dream come true. However, every job has its challenges, including grooming. Not every dog loves the grooming process. Most dogs, when skillfully handled with respect, can be groomed with minimal stress to both the pet and the groomer.

Pick trainers you admire and follow them. Study the natural body language of dogs. Learn as much as you can about canine behavior and psychology.

The better you can communicate with the pet you’re working on, the less stressful your job is going to be. Most people who have been in the business for a long time have mastered the art of canine (and/or feline) communications. It doesn’t matter whether they are working on a regular client or one they only see a few times a year. Rarely do they have difficult or naughty dogs on the grooming table.

It does not mean experienced groomers don’t get challenging pets. They do. They just have the skills to handle that pet more effectively than someone with fewer handling skills. If they have a consistently full appointment book, they have the option to make choices in their clientele. Whether they continue to work with a difficult pet or refuse it in the future is totally theirs.

Experienced pet stylists set the rules, limitations, and boundaries automatically – many times without ever saying a word. Even if they do have issues, they know how to effectively deal with problem pets in a safe and gentle manner. Do you know their secrets?

Happy trimming!

Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat are your favorite books or educational resources when it comes to learning dog (or cat) behavior, psychology, body language and dog training? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us.

 


The Importance of Rebooking Appointments

October 19th, 2017 by Joelle

Rebooking clients is one of the easiest ways for groomers and pet stylists to boost their income. Encouraging clients to rebook on the day of their service will help keep a steady stream of pets coming into your salon.

cozy petClients that rebook before they leave return on a much more frequent basis than those who do not. Let’s face it – life gets busy. Personally, if I did not rebook my own hair appointment before I left the beauty salon, I’d be there a lot less frequently than every five or six weeks! Our pet owning clients are no different.

Many groomers don’t encourage their customers to rebook their pet’s next grooming. They think the client will come back when they are ready. While that may be true, it’s more likely the client will not return as often as they should.

As a professional, it is up to us to educate our clients how often they should return based on:

  • hygienic needs of the pet
  • coat condition
  • trim style
  • activity level
  • level of home maintenance between appointments

Most pets that are considered a part of the family require regular grooming. These owners share their lives, their homes, and sometimes even their beds with their four-legged family member. These pets benefit from weekly or bi-weekly bathing. Ideally, pets that require haircuts should be trimmed every 4 to 6 weeks. How often you handle hand stripped pets will vary based on the coat type and the technique used to strip out the dead coat. These dogs will need to be groomed weekly to a couple of times a year.

Pet professionals who understand the impact of rebooking realize that is not just a courtesy, it’s an important business building strategy. Educate your clients about the rebooking process. Encourage them to set aside time to keep their pet’s coat in peak condition.

Circle Steps

Here are 4 Tips to Ensure Your Clients are Rebooking with Every Visit

  1. Stress Maintaining a Schedule – As a professional pet stylist, it’s your job to educate your client. You know what it takes to keep their pet’s coat in peak condition. Find out how the client would ideally like their dog to look and learn their budget. Talk to them about how much at-home care they are willing to do between grooming appointments. Discuss the lifestyle of the pet. Once you know the answers to those questions, you can suggest the ideal number of weeks the pet should go between professional grooming appointments.
  2. Suggest Dates – Don’t just ask the client if they would like to rebook their next appointment. Suggest an ideal appointment date when you should see them again and have your calendar ready to set that appointment. If the client is hesitant, politely informing him that the best spots are already being filled can often help him make the decision to arrange for the appointment before he loses out to someone else.
  3. Offer an Incentive to Rebook – Small incentives can be a great way to keep clients coming back. Offer a small discount if they book their next visit within six weeks or less. Or offer them a free service with their pre-booked appointment. If they rebook weekly, bi-weekly, or every third week – offer them a special discounted rate to maintain the frequency of their visits. Do the math – you’ll probably be shocked at how steeply you can discount a weekly or bi-weekly client on their regular grooming price and still make more money on an annual basis.
  4. Train Your Staff – Rebooking is a courtesy to the client – and a benefit to you. Make sure your entire team understands the importance. The key to success is to ask EVERY client to rebook their next appointment before they leave.

Having an appointment book that is 50% to 70% pre-booked is like money in the bank. It’s a security system that allows you to breathe easily. It ensures you will not lose clients or revenue from light client bookings. It is one of the easiest ways to guarantee your income and keep your pet clients looking and feeling their best.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteDo you agree with this post? How do you encourage your clients to stay on a regular schedule? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us why or why not.

 


What Keeps Clients Coming Back?

October 5th, 2017 by Joelle

When a student graduates from The Paragon School of Pet Grooming, I love to hear about their success stories down the road. They might work for someone else or work for themselves. They love what they’re doing and their careers are thriving. But what makes those graduates successful?

For many of them, it might not be what you think.

We all have good friends. When you think about those friends, what traits draw you to them?

Quote In A CircleMy good friends are honest, dependable, self-confident, empathetic, and are good listeners. They have integrity. I enjoy being around them.

Bottom line, I trust them.

Not every groomer needs to be an all-star stylist to succeed. However, having repeat clientele is the lifeblood of any business. It does not matter if you are a solo groomer or work with a team of pet stylists with a support staff. Getting customers to come back on a regular basis pays the bills.

We are not in the business of washing and styling pets. We are in the trust business. For many of the clients that we deal with on a regular basis, their pets are an extension of their family.

I’m not a parent but if I were, I would never leave my child anywhere I felt apprehensive about the facility, the people, or about any part of the service. Most of our clients feel the same way about their fur babies. If you are going to be successful, your clients need to trust you.

To be a successful pet groomer or stylist, you need to have repeat clientele. Repeat clients are attracted to the same types of characteristics as your good friends. When you get others to trust you, it’s easier to grow your clientele and/or your business. It allows you to give all your clients and the pets exceptional service.

lIST

Unfortunately, trust is fragile. If you lose it, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to restore it.

You can’t fake a genuine relationship built on trust. The same characteristics that build a good friendship will build strong relationships with your clients and their pets.

Trust can take a long time to build. Yet it can take only a moment to weaken or disappear because of one senseless act. Without trust, you don’t have a business – or a job.

Trust keeps clients coming back. Repeat clients keep your business healthy. Take the time to build trust and strengthen relationships with your customers – you’ll be amazed at the result!

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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Making the Most of a Seminar

September 14th, 2017 by Joelle

seminarWhen 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.

1.  Step into the session with a very open mind.

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.

2.  Make efficient use of the time available.

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.

3.  Don’t be nervous – plan ahead.

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!

I’ll be at the Groom Expo September 14-17, 2017.  If you’d like to download the handout for my lecture, Ruff Times in Your Salon? The 4-Rs for a Full Appointment Book, click here.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhy do you attend trade shows? How do you make sure you get your money’s worth? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.

 


How Do You Remove Track Lines from a Coat?

August 31st, 2017 by Joelle

I still remember how frustrated I got when I first started grooming.

eraserI 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.

Quote In A CircleThe 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.

Tracks.

It didn’t matter how powerful the clipper was.

Tracks.

It didn’t matter what time of year it was.

TRACKS.

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.

Page 479 Ways to Eliminate Track Marks

  • You need super sharp blades. The sharper the blade, the faster and smoother the cut.
  • Get a powerful set of clippers. They don’t necessarily have to be large and clunky. They do need to have enough power, speed, and torque to glide effortlessly through a thick coat.
  • Use consistent speed when clipping through the coat. As you guide the clippers through the coat, you need to run the clipper consistently over the pet’s body.
  • Card thick and dense coats before AND after. Dead undercoat clogs clipper blades. Removing as much dead undercoat prior to clipping and then again after the clipping will greatly reduce lines.
  • Always follow the lay of the coat either clipping with the grain or against the coat growth. Cross coat cutting typically creates track lines. Focus on working with the natural lay of the coat.
  • Reverse blade clipping. When the coat growth pattern is distinctive, reverse clipping can be beneficial to remove or eliminate clipper tracks. Instead of working with the coat growth, work directly against it. Reverse clipping cuts the coat closer than working with the grain. Always bump the blade up two lengths longer – a #4F cuts the length of a #7F with the grain.
  • Maintain a consistent degree of tip on the blade as you clip. Every clipper blade works most efficiently when the heel of the blade is tipped up slightly. The shorter the clipping action, the higher the degree of tip.
  • Keep consistent pressure against the skin as you clip. Typically, the weight of the clipper is the correct pressure to apply. Keep a supple wrist as you guide the clipper over the pet’s body.
  • Fine detailed thinners work as erasers on stubborn lines. When all else fails, you can buffer clipper lines with thinning shears, knocking off just the high points of the tracks.

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.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat are the tricks you’ve used to eliminate tracking? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.

 


5 Steps to Mastering Any Skill

August 24th, 2017 by Joelle

Mastering SkillsLearning 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.

Here are five ideas to help you stay focused on a skill you want to master.

  1. Deliberate practice has one objective: to improve performance. According to Ericsson, “People who play tennis once a week for years don’t get any better if they do the same thing each time. Deliberate practice is about changing your performance, setting new goals and straining yourself to reach a bit higher each time.”
  2. Perfect practice makes perfect. Repetition matters. Do it repeatedly. Football legends don’t practice their specialty briefly at the end of their practice sessions. They repeat the fundamentals of their specialty hundreds of times each week.
  3. Get consistent feedback. You must monitor your progress so you can adjust. Without feedback, you won’t know how to improve. Seek out a mentor or a coach in the area you would like to master. Asked them for consistent criticism and advice.
  4. Identify your weakest area. Focus on improving your weakest skill. Then move on. Don’t beat yourself up.
  5. Be prepared. The process is going to be challenging. It will physically and mentally exhaust you. Mastery takes commitment, focus, and extreme effort.

IMG_20150430_073120When 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?

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat are the things you’re working to perfect every day? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.

 


What’s the Hardest Part of Running a Business?

August 3rd, 2017 by Joelle

06-27

In my experience, the hardest part of running a business is STAFF!

Hands down the most challenging part of running a business is staffing it. Managing staff. Keeping staff. Paying staff. Keeping them accountable. Keeping them productive. Keeping them happy.

And the real biggie – training them.

So let’s tackle the training challenge first. It’s far easier to hire basic labor than filling a position that requires skill. At our kennel, the Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa, we have an endless supply of dog enthusiasts that want to work in the kennel. With multiple colleges within our community, the labor force is easy to come by. After all, everybody wants to play with puppies!

But what about those jobs that require skilled labor? People like receptionists, bathers, managers, and trainers.

One of the largest reasons I started the Paragon School of Pet Grooming was because I could not find qualified groomers to operate my fleet of mobile grooming vans. They just weren’t available. I still shudder when I think about it. There were times that I would have a van down for 6 to 12 months at a time before I could find somebody that could do the job. Not a very efficient way to run a business.

Working every day in a mobile grooming salon does not lend itself well to a training environment. It can work if you just have to add polish to a skilled professional. But to take them from scratch? Nope. It doesn’t work. You just can’t afford the time it takes to train a new groomer – especially if you rely on YOUR productivity to pay the bills. Starting a person from scratch to become a competent groomer in a mobile just does not work!

To get a groomer that can work independently – with safety and quality – will take months, not weeks, to train. After all, this is not a skill that you can quickly show somebody how to do. Grooming is not a simple task. It requires significant training.

I’ve heard some businesses offer two-week training programs for new hires. Then they turn them loose to groom “professionally.” Some circles might consider this enough, but for quality and safety, you need more.

Did you know the average person needs to see or hear something 3 to 7 times before it actually sinks in? And that’s for an average learner. Sure, star performers might pick it up after the first or second try – but those people are few and far between. Most of us fall in the average category. We have to see or do the same task repeatedly before we do it correctly.

TrainingI’ve been in the pet care industry for over 30 years – primarily in the grooming aspect of the industry. Finding qualified groomers remains the number one problem in our field.

Finding talented grooming help was close to impossible was when I first stepped up to the grooming table in 1979 – and it remains the same problem today. I have chosen to focus on this critical problem. I own multiple companies in the pet industry. On the educational side, my companies aid in training and personal development for those stepping into the field for the first time as well as for aspiring pet groomers and stylists.

It has always been extremely easy to enter the field of pet grooming. There are very few regulations of any sort. Anybody can start bathing and cutting hair off a dog or cat, and call themselves a professional pet groomer. Those of us that have spent years perfecting our craft know it takes time and dedication to become confident and competent in all breed grooming. It takes years of practice and study.

Some of the ways that I have found to become a real professional include:

  • Studying the AKC Complete Dog Book or your national all breed book
  • Reading books produced by breed and/or industry specialists
  • Attending workshops and clinics hosted by industry leaders
  • Attending a grooming school – many have multiple programs from which to choose
  • Taking an online course from a reputable institution
  • Attending continued education training at qualified grooming schools
  • Watching videos produced by leading pet professionals

Even graduates coming out of quality grooming schools are not truly proficient. If they have graduated with above average GPA’s, they have given themselves a great foundation. It is the starting point of their career – but they are far from being a polished professional. They still need guidance. They still need coaching. They still need mentoring. They still need to study. And most of all – they need to practice A LOT!

featured-classified-300x232So let’s get back to that hiring challenge. If you’re faced with having to hire a groomer, know what to look for. One thing I recommend is Attitude. Attitude. Attitude. I always look for somebody who’s got a positive, upbeat attitude. Someone who is receptive to new information. They need to be moldable. Adaptable. And they cannot be afraid of hard work. I hire on potential, not necessarily experience.

Once you have someone with a great attitude, helping them be best they can be is fun – and it can be very gratifying. Use the resources available to help them self-direct their own learning.  It will take time, dedication, and patience before you see your new hire flourish but you can lighten your training load by taking advantage of many educational resources currently available. You might learn a thing or two yourself.

It amazes me that our industry has not advanced more in this area. Sure, there are more grooming schools than ever was before. Yes, there are certification organizations out there – but they’re still voluntary. Licensing, in some states is starting to catch on. However, we’re still a long way from having even a basic comprehensive licensing program in place for pet groomers and salon owners. The road before us is wide open with possibilities.

Will you help us blaze the trail?

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat are the biggest training issues you see every day? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.

 


An Easy Way to Create a Poodle Beveled Cuff

July 27th, 2017 by Joelle

As with all grooming techniques, there are many ways to get the job done.

When I was a contest groomer, I always did my Poodle cuffs by hand. I would brush the coat down then give it a quick fluff with my comb. Once it was fluffed, I’d glide a long straight shear in and set the lower edge. Then I’d re-fluff and grab my long curved shears to round and bevel the edges. It was time-consuming.

Done well, the beveled cuffs came out gorgeous. Done poorly, they were a sloppy mess. I had four chances to be perfect with my cuffs – or four chances to really mess up.

For pet dogs, I quickly taught myself another method. It was quick. Fool-proof. And it worked well on most of my shorter stylized pet trims.

On most of my pet trims, I cheated off excess leg hair by skimming it with a guard comb. Not only was it fast – it helped me set the length, too. Once I had the legs roughed in, I would brush the leg coat over the clipped foot with a firm slicker brush. I would slide my hand down the leg with my thumb and first finger resting just below the clipper line on the Poodle foot. My fingers would be my guide as I slid in a small pair of detailing scissors (I choose small shears for the safety of my own fingers!). I would scissor all the way around the cuff line, removing the longer hair.

When I released the coat… voila! A perfect cuff for an active pet. I could adjust the fullness of the beveled cuff by adjusting my scissored line somewhere between the lines of the knuckles of the foot and just below the clipped line on the foot. The lower I was on the foot with my cuff line, the fuller the bevel.

Once my cuff was set, I would neaten and finish the entire leg with shears, smoothing out my guard comb work.

I used this method for years. I even started to incorporate it into my more polished work in the contest ring. It worked well there, too – especially if I used it as a double-check after I did my cuffs with longer shears.

In the past few years, I’ve seen extremely talented stylists start using another method to get perfect cuffs every time. They use a #30 or #40 blade on their clippers! Who knew?

So how do you do it?

It’s very similar to my old method, but instead of shears, pet stylists reach for their cordless 5 in 1 style clipper. They set the blade at the shorter levels, basically the length of a #30 or #40 blade.

Hold the foot off the table at a comfortable level for the pet. With a firm slicker brush, brush all the hair down around the foot. Once the coat is brushed into place, slide your hand down the pet’s leg, thumb and forefinger closest to the foot.

Stop and hold the foot with your fingers coming to rest right at the clipped cuff line. While maintaining your hold on the foot, gently trim at right angles around the cuff with the #30 or #40 blade. Simply touch the coat at the edge line you want to set.

The fullness of the leg coat will determine where you place the line. For fuller legs, use the top of the crease marks on the toes. If the leg coat is shorter, move the line closer to the clipped cuff line.

When you release the coat, the fur will be nicely beveled. The line should be crisp and free of all stray hairs. As with the hand-scissored cuff, check the work from all angles to make sure the cuffs are level from side to side and front to back. Don’t forget to look from table level when inspecting your cuffs for perfection.

It may take a few tries to perfect this technique, but once you do, creating flawless cuffs every time becomes simple. With a well-prepped dog, this technique is fun, fast, and super safe.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_white Did you try it? How did it work for you? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us what works for you!


 
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