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Grooming Efficiently vs Grooming Fast – What’s the Difference?

We all have different reasons why we love our careers. For most of us, our careers started because we were obsessed with dogs and cats. What a fabulous way to make money – doing something you enjoy. My guess is that many of you not only love animals, they’re also a hobby and a huge part of your lives. I know very few career opportunities that allow pet lovers to work in a field they truly adore.

I love helping people who are passionate about their career choices. I always encourage people to seek out personal growth. To look at ways to do things better, more efficiently, and with greater focus. Raise the bar. Set personal goals. Set limits. Develop strategies. Ultimately, the pet, the individual, and the business wins.

If you are a solo stylist, you get to make up your own rules. Work at your own pace. There is very little pressure to move beyond your comfort zone.

However, if you work with a team, you will usually have quotas to meet and rules that you need to follow. The business sets up these boundaries in the best interest of the client, staff, and the long-term health of the company. If someone does not meet quotas, it creates a frustrating situation for the rest of the team in terms of time, quality, and financial stability. Read the rest of this entry »


What Keeps Clients Coming Back?

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. Read the rest of this entry »


5 Steps to Mastering Any Skill

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. Read the rest of this entry »


How to Handle Tardy and No-Show Clients

Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy rule for solving the problems of tardy or no-show clients. The good news is that you have lots of options to help deal with it. Depending on how busy you are, cancellations can either be a blessing or a curse. In either case, if you have a client who is chronically dismissive or disrespectful of your time, you need to be proactive and correct the problem.

Our kennel, Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa, experienced 68 reservation cancellations over the 4th of July holiday. During the summer months, Whiskers runs at over 100% occupancy rate with its 180 rooms. During peak holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Spring Break, Whiskers charges a $50 deposit for all reservations. This deposit is nonrefundable if the cancellation takes place two weeks prior to their check-in date. In the past, the deposit has not been charged for Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Labor Day. That will be changing. Read the rest of this entry »


Hiring for the Spring Rush

Now HiringDo you experience seasonal climate changes? If you are in the northern hemisphere, I bet you are already feeling the warm weather grooming rush. One week you are slow, then suddenly the sun comes out. The temperature begins to rise. Instantly, your phone starts to ring off the hook.

Let me ask you this.

  • Are you staffed to handle the load?
  • Are you going to be working 12 hour days, six days a week and still not get caught up?
  • Are you booked out solid for 4 weeks or more?
  • Are clients and potential customers getting frustrated or even angry because you can’t book them as quickly as they’d like?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you’re not alone. When the spring rush hits, groomers are in short supply everywhere! Read the rest of this entry »


Building Teamwork Within Your Salon

Grooming Department Success is Determined By its Team Members.

Creating teamwork within a grooming department is a challenge. Getting ANY group of people to work in harmony with one another is no easy task.

Teamwork requires four things:

  1. Communication (sharing information)
  2. Leadership (direction and guidance)
  3. Accountability (rules and boundaries)
  4. Clarity (understanding the cause and purpose for every task)

Teamwork helps achieve goals. It also creates an enjoyable, rewarding place to work.

TeamworkOver the years, I have had varied levels of success with fostering teamwork. I’ve had times when the entire organization was working together as a single unit. We were energized and excited. We met objectives. We knocked goals out of the park. Life was good.

I have also had times when there was very little teamwork. Frustration and negativity took over. Meeting objectives was almost impossible. Goals went out the window. More than once I questioned if the company would survive or if it was worth the effort to keep it going. Read the rest of this entry »


Mentors Make the Difference

revised-mainMentors are the most valuable resources you can tap into when it comes to growing your career.

The idea of launching or growing a pet-related business, becoming a certified master groomer, or entering the competition arena can be intimidating. Let’s face it – growth and change is challenging. Even if you are brave enough to take the leap, it is easy to get derailed.

Did you know that over 70% of Fortune 500 companies offer mentoring to their employees? It’s a way to attract, motivate, develop, and retain employees while increasing productivity. Mentoring and working with consultants helps successful companies maintain their cutting edge. In the pet service industry, the same tactics can boost your business and career.

When I was first starting out, I sought out the wisdom of mentors. I was only 22 when I started my first business and was still in college. One of my first advisors was my college business professor. He encouraged me to open my original business after grading a final paper – a business plan for mobile dog grooming.  I left college in 1983 before earning my degree to start Four Paws Mobile Grooming.

The business grew so rapidly, I had six mobile grooming units within five years. I knew needed help growing my business while expanding my own skills.

How did I do it? Through mentoring and coaching.

I joined a local women’s business group and networked with business leaders and service providers. It’s been over 30 years and I still work with a few of the people I met through that organization.

In the early 80’s I learned about voluntary certification testing for pet groomers. I went to clinics, attended workshops, went to trade shows (not that there were many!), and networked with the visionaries of that time. Ultimately, I formed close mentoring relationships with several of them.

I was introduced to the AKC conformation dog show world. I networked with breeders and handlers who taught me about structure, movement, coat maintenance, and advanced grooming skills.

In exchange for their wisdom, I did whatever I could to help THEM. I helped breeders and handlers with dog maintenance, conditioning, and grooming. I did whatever I could to assist visionaries with their projects. I paid my dues with business groups, attending meetings and listening closely to speakers. Every experience helped me grow and improved my business.

The great mentors boost your confidence. Whenever you start something new, there is uncertainty. That’s normal. Many people can overcome that feeling by themselves, while others need more guidance. With a good mentor, you are learning from someone who is already where you want to be. They know exactly what it takes to get there and can lead you through that uncertainty.

Mentors are the most valuable resources you can tap into when it comes to growing your career.

When you first start out, you don’t need someone at the very top of the field. Not only is it unrealistic, it’s not always helpful. There’s a good chance the advice of mentor at the very top would be intimidating or not appropriate for your current circumstances.

Learning is like stairs on a staircase. Working with a mentor allows you to rapidly climb the staircase – but you still can’t eliminate the steps. As you look for inspiration, look for someone or something which is a few levels ahead of you. As you climb the career staircase, continue to look for mentoring situations that will inspire you to new levels.

The internet has changed the learning landscape. There are now a wider variety of mentoring options. Some are free or inexpensive thanks to today’s technology. Many of them self-guided. Others follow outlines or structured programs. Still others utilize social media as a form of networking and sharing ideas.

Here are 9 ways to learn from others who have already walked the walk.

  1. Blogs and Podcasts. Information is just a few keystrokes away. The beauty of blogs and podcasts is that they are free. Are you taking advantage of them?
  2. Books are indispensable. Pick a topic – any topic. You will find so many books that will provide clarity that may be just a download away.
  3. Training Programs. Training programs can be hands-on or online. More are added every day.
  4. Facebook Groups. Facebook groups offer an amazing community of inspiration. Many of them offer free mentoring on specific topics.
  5. Study Groups. We think of these more in high school and in college but they are still valuable as you grow your career. Hosting a monthly local study group is a great way to network with other pet professionals in a relaxed and casual setting.
  6. Clinics and Workshops. These are typically smaller, more intimate lectures/demonstrations led by a top field professional. Grooming clinics and workshops can generally be found in larger communities.
  7. Membership Sites. There are amazing subscription-based sites hosted by industry leaders. A wide array of topics include business, finance, marketing, social media, leadership, grooming, and much more.
  8. Coaches and Consultants. Professional coaches earn their living by helping others succeed. A talented consultant can kick start your career by providing the motivation and inspiration you need to keep moving ahead.
  9. Personal Mentors. Finding a personal mentor can be quite challenging. Potential candidates at the height of their careers have huge demands on their time. For most of them, taking on mentees outside of their own personal network is not easily possible. Some may make exceptions for the right person.

shutterstock_162619325-career-coachingCompensation for an experts’ time depends on the amount of time and effort they have invested in the process. Sometimes a simple hand-written thank you note is enough. Offering your assistance in exchange for their time is another idea. There are thousands of ways to show your appreciation, both during the learning process, as well as long afterwards. It’s best to discuss the topic of compensation up front to avoid misunderstandings.

Your need for fresh mentors always changes. Skill sets will grow. Experiences will expand. You will gain knowledge as you apply yourself. It’s likely you will outgrow your early mentors. That’s OK. It’s not uncommon for mentors to eventually become your peers. Who knows, you may end up becoming friends or even collaborating on future projects!

Experience is a priceless tool. Experience can’t be bought – it can only be earned or shared. Talented mentors will share their knowledge. They can help you achieve your goals by relying on their own experience to guide you.

I recently received a personal note thanking me for writing Notes from the Grooming Table. Even though I did not personally mentor this individual firsthand, the knowledge I shared through my book was indispensable to her career success. I was blown away.

Always remember to appreciate the mentoring opportunities created for you, whether it be a blog, podcast, book, training program, workshop, or other mentoring scenario. Your success will be a product of that knowledge and experience.

Happy trimming,

~Melissa


Are You a Dog Grooming Success?

rrimageDog groomers love to do a good job. We like the way it feels to excel and to please other people. For some, this is how they measure success.  For others, this is a starting point.  Do you want to know the steps and work it takes to go from good to great?

What are your goals? Do you admire today’s top competitive pet stylists? Maybe you have your sights on certification. Do you have a dream of someday becoming a certified master groomer or pet stylist? Maybe you hope to become a member of GroomTeam USA or represent your country in world team competition?

Maybe your dog grooming aspirations have nothing to do with competitive styling. Maybe your goal is winning the trust and respect of pet owners, turning them into regular clients.

They’re all worthy goals – and guess what? It’s not as hard as you think. There is no complicated recipe. But there is a secret.

Focus on the fundamentals.

Success is all about the fundamentals. The fundamentals are the little things. The ordinary things. And often, they are the tedious things. But to be the best you must master them. You must become a master of those ordinary, everyday tasks. With every act of greatness, whether in sports, business, the arts, or in pet grooming, the best of the best achieve extraordinary feats by doing ordinary things with amazing consistency, commitment, and focus.

c00aa89c0f35c77225dcdc099b7a0f84What are the fundamentals in dog grooming?

It means perfecting the core skills: bathing, drying, brushing, fluffing, and dematting. It’s also clipping, scissoring, as well as understanding basic structure and anatomy. It means having solid and safe handling skills.

As a professional dog groomer and stylist, we get to practice these skills all the time. In fact, many of us practice them every single day. World-class pet stylists don’t master their craft by working every day on perfect dogs with fabulous coats in perfect condition. For many of them, the only time they work on a “perfect dog” is in the ring – and under the pressure of competition. Even then, there is no such thing as a perfect dog. Every dog has its flaws – even the perfect ones.

Top stylists know it takes years of practice with everyday pets to master the fundamentals. Winning doesn’t just happen on the day of the competition. Winning is a result of dedication and hard work. The trophy is a product of training, study, and sacrifice. You cannot earn a high grade in certification testing on testing day, alone. Winning or earning high grades on your practical skills tests starts in every bathtub and on every grooming table, every day. There is no such thing as an overnight success. Typically, it takes years of uncountable numbers of hours of dedication to the craft.

Practice, in itself, is not enough. In order to truly succeed you need to follow this rule: Perfect Practice Makes Perfect. If you are not practicing dog grooming fundamentals correctly, you’re wasting your time. Clients will not return if your work is sub-par. Awards will not be given. High test scores will be out of reach.

514_400x400_NoPeelWith so many variables with dog grooming, where do you start? What coaching or training technique should you trust? How do you learn the RIGHT skills?

Start at the ground floor and learn from the masters. The information is out there. You will find it in:

  • magazines
  • books
  • clinics
  • workshops
  • seminars
  • schools
  • trade shows
  • conformation dog shows
  • obedience classes
  • grooming competitions
  • videos
  • blogs

Research online. Talk to vendors and manufacturers. Work with a mentor, a coach, a consultant. Look. Listen. Learn.  But don’t blindly trust everything you find – check references whenever possible. Today, there is a lot of information out there – unfortunately not all of it is good information! Talk to the experts to make sure the material you are learning is correct and safe.

As you learn, take it one small step at a time. Dissect every step. Break it down. For every technique there are micro steps to learn to perfect any skill. Study those micro steps.

stairsStart at the very beginning just like with a long flight of stairs. You start at the bottom, taking one step at a time. Mastering dog grooming fundamentals is a lot like a staircase. Jumping ahead or skipping steps will not get you ahead any faster. In fact, missing steps is way more detrimental to a career than staying on course dealing with each step moving up the flight of stairs.

With every step along the way, you are creating a knowledge base. It will continue to grow with your career. It is paramount for any pet professional to have fabulous pet handling skills to build trust with our furry clients while keeping them safe. Another area that is critical to any successful pet groomer or stylist is learning the finer details of structure and anatomy.

The key is to focus on improving each day, taking the necessary steps. If you incrementally improve each day, each week, each month, each quarter – by the end of the year you will see remarkable results and growth. Over time, by committing to this process, the best develop their skills and enhance their performance as they strive for excellence and achieving perfect execution.

If you want to be at the very top of your game, to become one of the best professional pet groomers/stylists in your town, in your state, in your country, you need to practice perfect fundamentals. Every. Single. Day. You don’t need to have perfect pets to make this happen. Grooming everyday pets offers an abundant opportunity to practice the fundamentals.

Your success doesn’t necessarily mean winning the award or scoring a high grade. Sometimes success means having a full appointment book with happy customers. That’s what truly makes a successful grooming business.

What steps do YOU take? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy trimming!

~ Melissa


Production Bathing & Drying

production-blogPet bathing and drying seems to be a huge time challenge for many professionals. Many of you are all overflowing with pets to bathe during the summer season. I thought this would be a great time to review my time-tested “game.” I loved to play this game whether it was with 8 or 80 dogs a day! I’ve done it both ways and every number in-between over the years.

If you are one of those high volume shops doing 40 – 70 or more pets per day…  that’s a lot of toenail trimming no matter how you look at it!! How can you get more done in less time while not letting the quality of the work suffer? Here’s my method –  it’s a fast paced game with lots of variables to mix it up every day. After all, whoever thought pet grooming was going to be a boring job?

It’s not a mystery but it is like cooking a meal. The larger and more extravagant the meal (with multiple dishes being served), the more complicated the timing and the choices get to be. With a few dogs, it’s pretty simple – the choices are limited. Add more dogs and the variables increase.  Move to a full-blown shop pushing through 50+ dogs and you have something like a full force, successful restaurant that is managed by an experienced head chef.  OK, so how do you manage your bathing and drying roster so all the pets are done to the highest degree of quality and proficiency, just like getting multiple dishes to the table all done to perfection and hot?

The Three Basic Rules & Guidelines to Follow

1Review all the dogs on your roster for that day or session. This game works best when you have multiple pets arriving at one time so you can stagger them according to coat type, size, and degree of difficulty.

2Do your largest and furriest dog first. Something that can be bathed and then lightly high velocity dried to lift and separate the fur. By spending a few minutes with the high velocity dryer on each pet, it allows a clear view of any special needs of that animal while enhancing airflow to the coat once it is placed in an inactive drying situation. Bathe and set up the coat on all the bath and brush pets first, starting with the largest and most time-consuming dogs, working down the line of difficulty to the least difficult of the bath and brush pets. Once all the bath and brush pets are bathed, then proceed with dogs that need active drying to yield the best results

3Your goal on all trim dogs is not only to get the pet clean, but the coat needs to be tangle free and as straight as possible for the finished trim. After all the B&B pets are bathed, start washing your trim dogs. Start with the pet that has the heaviest and straightest coat – something that can sit for a few minutes while you bathe your other haircut pets without risking the coat drying before you get to an active drying method. Let the pet sit in a warm place wrapped in a towel. Proceed washing the next pet based on size, coat density and curl factor – less curl hits the tub before a curly coat – curly coats such as Bichons or Poodles go to the tub last. Once all the trim pets are bathed, start drying. The first pet up on the drying table should be the one that has the curliest, but lightest coat since that coat type will dry the quickest. If the coat dries before an active form of drying can take place while the coat is still damp, it will be impossible to remove the curl unless you re-wet the pet. Once the curliest coats have been fluffed dried so they are absolutely straight, move to the next kinkiest or wavy coat type – also weigh in the coat density factor. A lighter or shorter coat will need to go before a heavier or longer coats. A typical example would be that you have two dogs of equal size and similar haircuts like a 1 guard on the body and a fuller leg style. One dog is a Lhasa and the other is a Maltese/Shih Tzu mix. Normally the Maltese cross would have a lighter density of coat than the Lhasa, thus the Maltese mix gets dried before the Lhasa. Continue this process moving from the curliest coats down the line. The key is to get to a coat before it is dry so the heat of the dryer can straighten the fur out. Remember, the goal is always to have a straight, fluffy, mat free coat to finish. Curls and kinks in the fur make it impossible to execute a trim that is smooth and sleek. If a coat gets too dry, it must be re-wetted and the drying process started over.

????????There are many variations to how this game gets played out to be effective. It is what makes a day interesting to a professional pet stylist. The better you get at this game, the faster you will be able to get through multiple pets without sacrificing quality. Think about what we do in the terms of food. An average home cook should be able to get 2-3 dishes on the table at the same time. A first-class home cook should be able to handle a meal with 4-5 dishes and at least 6 people. Seasoned home entertainers can handle an elaborate holiday meal for 20 with ease. A professional chef will master an entire shift serving over a 100 meals and all their side dishes with it all arriving to the table hot and beautifully prepared.

How far can you push yourself – before you get lost in the order of bathing pets? Test yourself and see how you do. It’s a fun game that can be challenging yet really invigorating. The more dogs, the more fun, and reward when it goes smoothly!

What are your best methods? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa


Who Should I hire?

Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot of questions when it comes to hiring groomers and stylists. Questions like, “How should I grow my business? Which is better – independent contractors or employees?”

Early in my career I faced the same question. I went the same route as many of you. I was phenomenally successful with my first mobile grooming van in the early 80s. I needed to bring someone on to help handle my client load.

1rrAt the time, it was just me. I wore all the hats. My focus was strictly on grooming and growing my business. I didn’t have time to deal with payroll, taxes, and Workman’s Comp. The easiest way for me to handle the situation was to bring on an independent contractor to run a second van. Within a very short time I needed to bring on another van with another independent contractor.

As I was growing the business, my father (who is also a successful businessman) was watching over my shoulder. He heavily questioned my thought process about using independent contractors instead of employees. Just like many of you, I had every excuse in the book as to why independents contractors were better for my business.

  • “I can’t afford employees.”
  • “I don’t have time to figure out all the taxes.”
  • “They supply all their own hand tools.”
  • “They work without supervision in the vans.”
  • “Everybody else pays their groomers as independent contractors.”

I was confident I was doing the right thing.

Was I?

I ran like this for a number of years. My business was growing and so was my team. Then I learned about one of my idols who was a very knowledgeable and talented pet stylist who bought an existing and thriving salon.

The IRS had come in for a standard audit of his business. Guess what? They determined all of his independent contractors were actually employees. They went after him for all of the back taxes for the entire team. Years of back taxes. And to make matters even worse – they went after him for all of the back taxes due from the previous owner, as well.

My idol was destroyed – not just financially.

He lost his business.

He lost his house.

He lost his marriage.

He lost everything. He virtually became homeless.

2rrThe IRS is not somebody you want to mess with. They can destroy you.

Once I learned of this story, I went back and really looked at how I was running my business.

  • The company dispatcher booked our contracted stylist’s appointments.
  • The company dictated what their route needed to be and what time they needed to arrive to the client’s home.
  • The contracted employees were required to create daily written records of the services provided along with the charges with each appointment. With existing clients, stylists were expected to follow the directions in the trim histories, plus they were required to abide by the established pricing structure.
  • Checks were made out to my company.
  • The company set the pricing structure charged for the work done by each stylist.
  • The contracted employees worked full-time for my company.
  • The contracted employees were paid weekly commissions based off of their previous week’s sales.
  • I supplied the van, the tables, dryers, shampoos, vacuums, maintenance on the vans, fuel, and auto insurance on the mobile units.
  • All vans were stored and dispatched out of my property.
  • I had the ability to fire them.

Sure, there are a few gray areas. When I reviewed the list of 20 questions the IRS (see the image below) uses to determine whether a team member should be receiving a 1099 or a W-2, I had that deep gut sense I had been working with misclassified workers. I was terrified.

I flipped my team of independent contractors to employees almost instantly and never looked back. My father was immensely relieved with my change of heart – and rightly so.

3rrYes, having employees was more costly to my business. I made the necessary adjustments. I raised our grooming prices. I hired an office assistant to deal with the weekly payroll. I boosted the level of responsibility of my accountant to deal with taxes on a quarterly basis. We made it work and we continued to thrive.

If you are in the United States, take a look at the questions below. You can click on and print the image to review it more carefully. Answer them honestly. What is your gut telling you?

This is not an area where you can afford to be wrong. Choosing the wrong classification could cost you weeks – if not months – of grief. Maybe you’ll get away with a slap on the wrist. Maybe you’ll have to make up all those back taxes and pay them to the IRS. Or maybe they will come down so strongly you could lose your business. Your home. And even your life as you know it.

Are you willing to take the risk?

Are you in this situation? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

IRS-20

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