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What Are Your Doors of Opportunity?

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I was one of those difficult kids for my parents. I had no focus. My grades in school were dismal. I was rebellious. I hung out with the ‘wrong crowd.’  Sound familiar? Maybe that was you. Or maybe you know someone like that right now.

I was so difficult for my mom and step-dad; a school counselor contacted my father. She told him she felt I was a suicide risk. I should be removed from my current living situation if at all possible. Luckily, it was possible. I was sent off to private boarding school.

I’m sure the small private school in Colorado saved my life. Much of their early education was founded around the principles of Outward Bound, both inside and outside the classroom.  My love of animals and the outdoors gave me the focus I needed to turn my life around.

I got my start in the pet industry when I was 16 years old. My first job was scooping poop at a local kennel. I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do ‘when I grew up.’ All I knew was I loved pets.  For me, working at the kennel was exceptionally gratifying. I did that for three years while going to school. 

Then one day the groomer got fired. I went from shoveling poop to grooming dogs overnight. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. But I had tools. I had a book.  I had a ready-made clientele. And I had a boss that was willing to let me learn.  My first day as a ‘professional groomer,’ I had 6 dogs to groom.  That was 1980.

Fast forward to 2014. Thirty-four years later. The pet industry opened huge doors of opportunity for me. My education was not in the classroom. It was on the job. I was no longer rebellious. I was focused. I was able to turn my passion into a career. And I took it seriously. I may not have earned many A’s in school (I don’t think I ever saw one of those come across a report card!) but I didn’t let that stop me from achieving A’s in real life.

In the early years, I had no idea what I would set out to accomplish – but if I was going to do this – I was going to be the best dog groomer I could possibly be.

It has been a non-stop learning opportunity as I climbed the stairway of knowledge – and business. The pet industry is limitless with what you can achieve for yourself – and for others that may join you on your journey.

Over the years I’ve started many pet related businesses including: a fleet of mobile grooming vans, a grooming shop, a grooming school, a publishing company, a luxury pet report, and an internet based library of educational streaming videos. I’ve had the chance to travel the world with the pet grooming industry, first as a top rated pet stylist then as an award winning speaker. I’ve been able to share my quest of knowledge by creating top rated curriculums and by writing books. I’ve watched a couple of my companies hit the million dollar mark in annual sales. I’ve seen some of them grow at tremendous rates. I’ve been amazed at the staying power of others.  We’ve weathered challenging times that would destroy most businesses – but we’ve faced the struggles and persevered.

As you look ahead to 2014, what do you plan on doing with your career? Are you happy with where you are?  Are you making the type of money you are comfortable with? Are you satisfied with the quality of your work? Do you have a steady stream of regular clients? Are you booked in weeks in advanced or even a year out with repeat clients? Do you enjoy going to work each day?

Here are two quotes I love.

The first one is from Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi. He said, “If you’ll not settle for anything less than your best, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in your lives.”

The second one is from Diana Ross. She stated, “You can’t just sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream; you’ve got to get out there and make it happen for yourself.”

The pet service business is an amazing field to be in. You – alone – are responsible for your destiny. Only YOU can change your career path. If you are not thrilled with where you currently are in life – change it! Only you hold the key.

Once I got through my difficult phase in life – I found a fabulous career path. One filled with challenges and rewards. With each step, new doors of opportunity appeared. If I chose to work hard – very hard at mastering each task, I had more doors open. It’s been an amazing journey that I wouldn’t trade for a million years.

What are you going to do to change your career path and make it the most rewarding year yet? 2014 holds many promises if you choose to open the doors. Your rewarding journey can start simply by taking the steps towards a new opportunity.

 Happy Trimming!


Independent Contractor or Employee – Who Do You Hire?


I’m just like most of you. My first business was a mobile van. I was extremely successful. Within less than a year I needed a second van. I needed someone to run that unit. I didn’t want it complicated. I just needed help. I figured the easiest route to go was to find the person that could groom and send them out in a second rig. I didn’t need to file all that mumbo-jumbo with the government. Heck, this person was going to run solo — it was the perfect situation for an independent contractor. After all, everybody else was doing it!

Fast forward three years. I now had four rigs. I had hired an accountant. My accountant suggested I hire a CPA to do my taxes. Throughout the years I knew in my heart I was running close to the wire with my independent contractors. My father had been harping on me. My accountant was concerned. My new CPA really set me straight using a very effective tactic — fear.

If you work with independent contractors within your grooming organization, do you really know the current tax laws? The IRS is very strict with its rulings concerning employees vs. independent contractors. Being naïve is no excuse. If you are ever caught, it will be the IRS that makes the ruling on whether you actually have an employee or an independent contractor.

There are a number of different ways to get caught. It might be an audit of your business or one of your workers files an unemployment claim, a disgruntled worker simply turns you in are a few of the common ways but there are many more.

I know — I know. You can’t afford to hire employees. All those taxes you have to take out of the employee’s paycheck and all the taxes that you need to pay into the government both state and federal plus Social Security and Medicare for each employee. Whew – it’s a paperwork and budget nightmare.

But trust me, if you have your workers misclassified, you can’t afford not to have them as employees if that’s what they truly are. The IRS has no qualms about coming in, slapping you with heavy fines and penalties equal to the amount of all the back taxes owed plus all the interest on those back taxes. Plus, the IRS may turn you in to your state government as well. In one single sweep, your business and your livelihood can be destroyed.


Shortly after I switched from independent contractors to employees I started hearing real life horror stories from within our own industry. One of my personal idols virtually lost everything due to incorrectly filing with the IRS. They lost their business, their home, their personal relationship — everything. They confirmed the fear that placed into me by my CPA years before. The IRS will – and can – destroy your life if you do not play by their rules. The stories that were shared much later only reaffirmed I had made the right decision years before.

So here’s the scoop. The laws are complex, subjective, and inconsistently applied, but knowing the rules can keep you and your workers safe. So here they are, in a nutshell:  Under United States common law, a worker is an employee if the person for whom he or she works has the right to direct and control the way he or she works, both as to the final result and as to the details of when, where, how, and in which sequence the work is to be done. It is the IRS’ view that the employer need not actually exercise control. It is sufficient that it has the right to do so.

Here’s a list of 20 questions the IRS uses to determine if a worker is an independent contractor or an employee. A ‘yes’ answer to any of the questions except #16 may indicate your worker is truly an employee. Take a look. Be honest with yourself — you can’t afford not to. (and yes did raise my grooming prices!)

IRS 20 Questions: Independent Contractor OR Employee

  1. Is the worker required to comply with instructions about when, where and how the work is done?
  2. Is the worker provided training that would enable him/her to perform a job in a particular method or manner?
  3. Are the services provided by the worker an integral part of the business’ operations?
  4. Must the services be rendered personally?
  5. Does the business hire, supervise, or pay assistants to help the worker on the job?
  6. Is there a continuing relationship between the worker and the person for whom the services are performed?
  7. Does the recipient of the services set the work schedule?
  8. Is the worker required to devote his/her full time to the person he/she performs services for?
  9. Is the work performed at the place of business of the company or at specific places set by the company?
  10. Does the recipient of the services direct the sequence in which the work must be done?
  11. Are regular oral or written reports required to be submitted by the worker?
  12. Is the method of payment hourly, weekly, monthly (as opposed to commission or by the job?)
  13. Are business and/or traveling expenses reimbursed?
  14. Does the company furnish tools and materials used by the worker?
  15. Has the worker failed to invest in equipment or facilities used to provide the services?
  16. Does the arrangement put the person in a position or realizing either a profit or loss on the work?
  17. Does the worker perform services exclusively for the company rather than working for a number of companies at the same time?
  18. Does the worker in fact make his/her services regularly available to the general public?
  19. Is the worker subject to dismissal for reasons other than non-performance of the contract specifications?
  20. Can the worker terminate his/her relationship without incurring a liability for failure to complete the job?



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