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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Spotlight Sessions for 11/14/2017

November 13th, 2017 by Joelle

Are You Taking Care of Your Best Customers?

November 2nd, 2017 by Joelle

CSRIt’s hard to believe, but the major holidays are just around the corner. What does your appointment book look like? Are you booked out until after the holidays?

If you are, CONGRATULATIONS!  Give yourself a huge pat on the back. Being proactive with your schedule feels great, doesn’t it?

If you’re still trying to fill holes in your schedule, there’s a question I’d like to ask.

Do you know who your most valuable clients are? Whether you are a solo flyer or work with a team, you can benefit from knowing what type of client brings in the most revenue.

When it comes to the busy holiday season, knowing how to prioritize appointments can be very helpful. As much as we would like to get to every client, there are only so many hours in a day. It can be hard to decide who gets appointments and who gets turned away.

This chart might help you determine who your most valuable clients are. Typically, it’s not the client paying the most money per groom.

tableLook at the revenue generation on the one, two, and three-week clients. Even with heavily reduced grooming fees, it’s amazing how $20 can add up week after week!

I’m not saying this is what you should be charging for your dogs. I’m just giving you an example. You can see how the numbers works out. Test the numbers using your own pricing averages.

Quote In A CircleOne of my companies automatically gives a five-dollar discount for clients that book every 4 to 6 weeks. Once they get under three weeks, the discount is even bigger. This is great for keeping the books full – and the dogs stay in good condition all year long.

It’s pretty amazing once you see the math, right? Hopefully, it gives you clarity on who should get those premier appointments spots.

Let me ask you this: is it fair to either the client – or to you – to take an eight-week client over someone you see every four weeks? What about a four-week client over a weekly client? Ultimately, the choice is yours, but I know who I’d pick!

When booking appointments, start with the clients you see most often. Reward their loyalty with the best appointment slots.

Take care of your weekly and biweekly clients first. Then move into your three-week clients. If they don’t have appointments, reach out to them in whatever method works best for your business – call, text, or email. With any luck, the last two appointment days before the major holiday(s) will filled with your regulars. Those days will be a breeze for you.

Once those clients are taken care of, start booking your four-week clients and continue down the line. By the time you’re done, you’ll know you’ve taken care of your most valuable clients in a way that is both systematic and fair. If you still have slots available, go ahead and fill them in as the phone rings.

If you are using this system to book six month to a year out, make sure you communicate with your clients. They should know when you’re unavailable due to vacations, family obligations, educational events, or peak grooming times. Helpfully offer them alternatives so their pets stay in excellent condition. You may need to be more flexible on times or even offer to have a substitute stylist when you are not available.

The holidays are always a blur! If you’re overworked, underappreciated, and totally worn out for your close friends and family you won’t enjoy the holidays. You need to make the time for yourself and those you love. I can still hear the disappointment in my mother’s voice when I was so exhausted from grooming, I could not make it to our traditional Christmas Eve family gathering.

This prioritizing system helped immensely. Being a little more organized and proactive meant I could take care of my best clients and still have the energy to enjoy the holidays with my family.

Don’t limit yourself – you can use the system to fill your books all year round. Ultimately, it depends on how in demand you are and how busy your schedule is.

Whatever way you implement the system, it’s a great way to take care of your best customers. Take care of them and they’ll take care of you. Most importantly, you’ll both be taking the best care of the pets you love.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_white

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Spotlight Session for October 31, 2017

October 26th, 2017 by Joelle

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

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Spotlight Session for October 17, 2017

October 13th, 2017 by Joelle

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

October 12th, 2017 by Joelle

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.

Years ago when I ran a mobile operation, our minimum quota of grooms per day was six – or the equivalent of six. Thus, two slots were given for larger jobs such as Standard Poodles and heavy-coated Cockers. If someone had something very small on their roster, they were always given an option to groom another small dog. As long as the vans were routed well, this quota worked out well across the board for years.

There was one exception: Sue (not her real name).

Whenever I hired a new mobile stylist, I always started them with just four dogs and combined that with a very wide arrival schedule. All of our stylists knew this right from the get-go. The quota they needed to meet was six grooms per day. The funny thing about Sue was that she didn’t care about the number of pets she groomed or the amount of money she made. Although she was passionate about animals and people, she did not groom because she needed the cash.

For a long time I was extremely frustrated with Sue’s performance. She would arrive at base at eight o’clock in the morning to pick up her van. Many times she did not come back to base until well after eight o’clock at night. The most dogs I could ever get her to do was five.

It took me a while to realize the frustration was all mine. As a business owner, it’s critical that I pay attention to the financial numbers – but there’s a bigger picture: customer service.

When I looked at Sue’s scheduled re-bookings, she could rarely take on a new client. Her clients absolutely loved her. She wasn’t the fastest groomer. She wasn’t a competition level stylist – never would be. Her grooms were basic, neat, and thorough. However, she was the most compassionate person I have ever hired. Not only did she enjoy the pets, she was passionate about her clients.

To Sue, her career was more than a means to a financial end, it was her social and entertainment outlet. I swear she had breakfast, lunch, and dinner with her clients. She ran errands for them. She shoveled their walks. She loved the senior citizens and the geriatric pets. She would talk with them for hours!

Hmmm. These were the clients my highly efficient stylists wanted to avoid like the plague. Once I came to terms with this concept, I ended up making it work in our favor.

I let Sue slide on the quota. She was dealing with all those clients the rest of my team would rather not do. By letting Sue focus on our more time-consuming clients (and enjoying it!), it allowed the rest of my team to focus on making quotas and/or exceeding them. It worked.

So even though I let Sue slide – only doing five grooms a day when the actual quota with six – it allowed the rest of my team to focus on grooming more pets. Not necessarily faster – just more efficiently.

Untitled Infographic(1)rrThere’s a big difference between grooming efficiently and grooming fast. Grooming efficiently involves doing a good job. Grooming too fast, in my eyes, translates to sloppy work. When I look at developing a grooming team or training new staff members, I always look for people who have the ability to focus and work efficiently.

To me, being efficient means doing a great job in the least amount of time.

I recently heard one of our industry leaders say, “I don’t know many wealthy groomers.” I don’t, either. I do know a lot of groomers and stylists that make a comfortable living and love their careers. Being able to work efficiently translates into creating larger client lists, larger paychecks, and the ability to breathe easily at the end of the day.

Unlike Sue, the majority of us have other responsibilities, outside interests, families to care for, and households to run. We may even have businesses to manage. Not to mention maintaining the health and well-being of both ourselves and the four-legged clients on the table. As much as we love our jobs, we can’t afford to be tethered to a grooming table any longer than necessary.

Being efficient as you groom is not about being fast or sloppy. It’s about being the best that you can be. It’s about creating systems throughout the entire grooming process so we do not miss any steps. As those systems are developed, they become automatic. Once they become part of a routine, you can focus on other areas that bring value to the pets we groom, the clients, and to our own lives.

Think about how you can create systems – or routines – at every step of the grooming process. Break it into bite-sized chunks.

Time everything. Knowing how long each step takes is the starting point of creating any routine. Each step could be broken down further into smaller nuggets, too. Once you start tracking, you can start improving your routine without sacrificing quality.

I love this quote. I try to live my life by it – in all areas. I hope you do too.

The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.
~Anonymous

There are plenty of groomers and stylists who are highly efficient. They can do a small, simple trim in under an hour – and knock it out of the park in terms of quality and customer service. Others struggle to complete the same trim in two hours. Others choose to do that simple trim at their own pace. As long as the work is top quality, the pets are treated with care and compassion, and the environment is safe for everyone – it’s OK.

We all have different reasons why we groom. For some, it’s more than just a job – it’s a lifestyle. Remember, there is a big difference between being an efficient bather, groomer, or stylist and being a fast one. Never stop learning. How you apply new knowledge is totally up to you.

Make the most of your time every day.  Click here to download our FREE handout to help you structure your day.  You can even watch Melissa’s video to see how it’s done, here.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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Spotlight Session for October 10, 2017

October 9th, 2017 by Joelle

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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How Many Pets a Day Should You Groom?

September 28th, 2017 by Joelle

I often say there are shades of gray in pet grooming.

Marc and WestieHow many dogs a day you should groom is one of the BIG gray areas! The number will be different for everybody. Some people feel overwhelmed grooming even three dogs in a full day. Other people can do 16 while barely breaking a sweat.

Here are just a handful of the scenarios affecting the number of dogs that might be groomed in a day.

  • Level of grooming experience
  • Work space setup
  • Equipment
  • Salon location
  • Salon type
  • Size of salon/mobile setup
  • Working solo or with assistance
  • Pet size
  • Type of grooms – low maintenance, bath and brush, show trim styles
  • Personal motivation
  • Your personality
  • Financial need

I’m sure you could add a few more to this list!

Typically, when someone first graduates from grooming school or is new to the industry, productivity is not high on their skill list. Rather, their focus is on thoroughness, quality, and safety.

New groomers will improve their speed as they develop skills and confidence. They need experience. They need coaching. They need guidance to create an effective grooming system. The system allows thoroughness while enhancing the quality of their work and the pace in which they do it.

If you’re a seasoned pet stylist, you’ve learned many of the tricks that allow you to be efficient. You’ve learned how to quickly assess a pet and easily determine its grooming needs. You are thorough. You work safely. You have a strong base of repeat customers.

Over the years I’ve seen beginners struggle to get through three dogs. I’ve seen highly efficient, seasoned stylists get through 16 or more dogs in the single day and still have the time and energy to have a little “me time” that evening. Where do you fall on the scale? Where would you like to be?

Being able to work quickly and skillfully can also be impacted by the layout of your work space. Are you set up for maximum efficiency? A bad layout will add unnecessary footsteps to your day and waste your time and energy.

Quote In A CircleYour equipment, tools, and products will also help or hurt you. Many products will enhance your speed and the quality of your final product. Do you have access to high-quality, time-saving, products and tools? When used correctly, they are well worth the investment and can help you groom more pets efficiently.

If you are a solo stylist either in your own salon or mobile setting, 6 to 8 dogs will likely be your maximum. In addition to grooming pets, independent business owners have a wide range of duties and responsibilities. They are the receptionist, the bookkeeper, the marketer, the janitor, and the record keeper – along with every other task it takes to run a successful business. If you are a mobile stylist, you also have driving and van maintenance added to your list of responsibilities.

Efficiency comes into play when pet grooming establishments start building a team. You cannot build a successful business or team with inefficient team members. Inefficient teams will not be able to groom as many pets as their efficient counterparts.

Financial need affects dog numbers. To get a decent paycheck, everyone needs to pull their weight. If you are hired onto a team or work with an assistant, you will have quotas to meet. Some quotas are determined by dog numbers. Other businesses use financial sales volume. Both help determine how many dogs are groomed each day.

Typically, once you start working with others, dog volume increases. In most salons, a team of people working together will be expected to do a minimum of eight dogs a day or more. When you’re working within a team, everybody has a specialty. Each person can focus on what they do best, whether it’s customer service, bathing and drying, or pet trimming and styling. If you have an assistant doing the bathing and drying for you, the number of pets might jump from 6-8 to 12-14. Let’s face it – bathing and drying dogs takes time! If a shop has a good bather/prepper, you can easily groom more pets in a day.

The type of trim combined with the sizes of dogs being done will make a huge difference in how many pets can be done each day. A #7F All on a six-week regular Shih Tzu is much different from a longer guard comb trim with stylized scissored legs. What happens if you increase the size of the dog? Larger dogs simply take much more time. To me, a Doodle is the equivalent of two or three smaller dogs, depending on the type of haircut it is getting.

For many pet professionals, WHY you groom pets will also influence how many dogs you groom in a day. One of the amazing things about our industry is we all love dogs. There are those who really enjoy taking their time with the grooming process and will groom fewer pets. There are those who will try to help as many pets as they can in a single day. Others enjoy the creativity. Some enjoy the flexibility the career offers while others are motivated by the career opportunities. There are also groomers that simply enjoy earning a living by doing something they love.

How many dogs should you groom each day? There are lots of gray areas so there is no right answer. Whatever your motivation, no matter how many dogs you groom each day, the most important thing should always be the health and safety of the pets entrusted to you.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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