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.

 


Help! I Have Too Many Clients!

June 22nd, 2016 by Joelle

Did you know about half of all small businesses fail within the first four years? It’s a scary statistic, but fortunately, you’re not one of the fallen. Your books are full. You’re grooming steadily all day long. The phones are ringing off the hook – it’s a dream come true, right?

There can sometimes be a dark side to all of this success. Do you feel like no matter how hard you work, how efficiently you groom, you just can’t get ahead? Is your first available appointment still three weeks out – or more? Is your cancellation list getting longer and longer?

I’ll bet you’re tired.   

Stressed.

Frustrated.

Wondering why you ever opened your own business.

After all, wasn’t it supposed to be fun and satisfying to finally be your own boss? Yet somehow, grooming all those cute little fluffy puppies has lost its appeal.

Sound familiar? I’ve been there more times than I care to admit!

What are you going to do?

The easy solution would be to hire another groomer. Unfortunately, finding someone talented, reliable, and a good fit for your team can be quite challenging. Most grooming schools have far more job requests than their graduates could fill. Placing an ad in any type of help wanted advertising outlet yields only crickets when it comes to finding anybody even remotely qualified to groom dogs and cats.

telephone-hammer-848x478 This is an age-old problem. I don’t know of a single successful grooming business that has not faced this dilemma at some point.

Don’t fret. You have options. Some are more long-term solutions. Others can be implemented instantly for immediate relief.

  1. Train your own groomers and stylists from scratch.
  2. Delegate basic tasks.
  3. Hire an assistant.
  4. Become exclusive by raising your prices, which will instantly lighten your client load.

Training your own groomers and stylists from the ground up is a great long-term solution – and sometimes the only option. It’s not a quick fix, but it is something you will want to keep in the back of your mind for the future. If you opt to go this route, keep in mind it will typically take six months to a year to train to someone who can independently groom dogs.

If you are a salon owner, my guess is you wear many hats when it comes to running your business. What if you could have someone else do some of the NON-grooming related tasks? Hire someone full or part-time to do the tasks you really don’t need to be doing. Things like:

  • cleaning
  • laundry services
  • running errands
  • bookkeeping
  • payroll
  • data entry

Delegate anything you can to assist with the smooth running of your business – or your home – which is not directly related to grooming.

Training a grooming assistant is a great option. Having someone to help with the more elementary tasks of grooming pets isn’t as time-consuming or difficult as training a full-fledged groomer. Yet, a well-trained assistant can almost double your productivity. A large bulk of the time grooming dogs is eaten up in the wet room.

Yes, training an assistant takes time but you will make that time up quickly! It will go even faster if you utilize the Core Skills videos in the Learn2GroomDogs.com online library. Combine that with select sections from the first 80 pages of Notes From the Grooming Table – Second Edition, and you have a winning recipe for success. Let’s face it, half of the time spent grooming dogs is spent in the bathing, drying, and fluffing areas.

There are other benefits to having an assistant work with you. They can jump in to help with other simple tasks when you really need another set of hands. Wouldn’t it be great to have someone who could:

  • help handle a challenging pet
  • answer the phone
  • run dogs and do potty breaks
  • help with customers
  • clean and sanitize
  • do laundry

…the list could go on and on.

Many successful stylists just don’t want to deal with a staff. They want to keep it simple. Uncomplicated. Stress-free. Yet if you have way too many clients, the demands on your time and your sanity will be quickly tested.

If the other three options are not good fits for you, maybe raising your prices and becoming exclusive is the best option. If you stop and do the math, it can be pretty enlightening. Raising your prices by $5 to $10 per dog will weed out your client load almost instantly, freeing up your time – and giving you time to breathe.

When you feel you could work twenty-four hours per day, seven days a week, and still not have sufficient time to get everything done – it’s time for a change. Situations like this are what contribute to safety issues, affect your personal life – maybe even your health.

Success is a great thing as long as you manage the growing pains of your business. If you don’t, the business is going to be running you instead of you running your company.

If you are one of the success stories with an abundance of pooches (or felines) coming through your doors, congratulations! Remember – managing growth is just as important as creating an amazing service for your customers. If you are feeling frustrated and stressed out, make the change you feel best fits your situation. Get off that work overload treadmill. Once you do, you might even enjoy your business again!

Has this ever happened to you? What did you do? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

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3 Books to Help Build an Amazing Grooming Career

June 9th, 2016 by Joelle

The choice to groom my first dog wasn’t mine. I had been working as kennel help and would occasionally help the groomer when my tasks were done. Nothing major, just bathing a few dogs, trimming some toenails, maybe brushing out some mats. I might even dry a few dogs by hand.

One day all that changed.

I still remember that call from my boss. She phoned me at home one night to tell me the full-time groomer we’d had was no longer with the salon. In an instant, my job changed from kennel help to groomer.

My first day on the job, I had six dogs on my roster – and no clue how to groom them. At the time there was nothing like Notes From the Grooming Table or even The Theory of 5 to guide me down this new path. Being young and fearless has its advantages – and yes, I got through my first day at my new job.

I won’t say that during those first few months I did beautiful work. Far from it. But there was something about it I liked. I was working with animals. Being creative. Having a skill that needed to be mastered. I found it all rewarding and challenging at the same time. The more I learned about dogs – and grooming them – the more I wanted to understand how to do it well.

Wanting to learn more brought me to voluntary certification testing. I studied breed standards and terminology. I learned about structure and movement. I worked hard to achieve competition level pet styling. As I became more knowledgeable, my skill level at the grooming table improved immensely.

In some ways, educating myself was like learning a foreign language. I bought my first AKC Complete Dog Book in 1979. It was the yellow one. Since then I have owned every version put out by the AKC including their latest edition (which is amazing by the way!).

I still remember that first yellow book. I soaked up the words but was clueless as to how to apply what I was reading. The terms and concepts were abstract in so many ways. I kept my trusty highlighter in my hand – but I really didn’t even know what I was highlighting. I tried to imagine what the words meant, but I couldn’t form a picture in my mind. I just didn’t know.

To complicate things even further, I started attending clinics. Advanced clinics. The demonstrators were talking about structure…movement… angles. I was totally lost. All this information was over my head. But I never gave up. As baffled as I was, I was still fascinated. I wanted to figure it out.

Every time I ran across a mysterious word in the AKC Complete Dog Book, I looked it up in the glossary. (Keep in mind this is long before the age of the internet and Google searches!) The more I learned – the more I wanted to learn. I started hunting for books that would help me understand how a dog was put together and why.

The next book I discovered was Canine Terminology, by Harold R. Spira. It was a gold mine! It was a visual dictionary of terms. All those things I struggled to imagine on my own, I could now see. How did those terms play out? What was a deep set eye? What was considered high ears? What were parallel planes? What was the difference between a cat foot and a hare foot? Any term that I found in the breed standards, I could almost always find a thorough explanation for in Canine Terminology.

I was feeling pretty confident as my knowledge grew. I could now envision what a dog that was standing still should look like based on the written standard. Yet, I still didn’t understand the “whys” of what I was doing. And I was certainly still clueless when it came to movement. All that talk about angles in the front and rear assemblies – what? How does that work? But more importantly why does it work – and when a dog is not built correctly, how does it affect the dog?

That’s when I discovered K9 Structure & Terminology, by Edward M. Gilbert, Jr. and Thelma R. Brown. It was like a light bulb going off in my head. I still didn’t totally understand the angles but I could visually see how the angles would work together when it came to effective movement. What I really loved about this book was the authors’ use of wild animals as examples. They talked about how the animals were structurally designed to survive – and thrive – in their environments.

The domesticated dog is a man-made creature. Breeds were originally bred and developed to assist man to do thousands of jobs. Almost all purebred dogs have some working trait in their backgrounds. How they are structurally put together allowed them to work efficiently – or not – for the job they were designed to do. Man stole those ideas by studying wild animals. With controlled breeding, man was able to create dogs designed to excel in areas wherever they needed help. The domesticated dog was there, working right beside man, to survive and thrive.

Today, many of those working roles are no longer required due to advancement in the industrial age and technology. Many breeds have been lost – while other ancient breeds still exist in small pockets around the globe. By the same token, new breeds are being developed in the domestic dog to meet the changing needs of mankind.

In the 12 years since I wrote Notes From the Grooming Table, there have been over 50 new breeds introduced to the American Kennel Club (that’s why I wrote the new Second Edition). When we travel outside the US, there are many breeds that we have never heard of – or seen – yet they are ancient breeds to their countries. Most of these breeds have specific roles and duties. The structure of the dog determines whether they are efficient in their roles – or not.

As professional all-breed pet groomers and stylists, it is critical that we understand the finer attributes of what makes up a purebred dog. The better we understand what the breed was developed for, how it was used, and what the ideal specimen should look like, the better we become with our craft. Plus, this knowledge allows us to interact and better understand our pet clients every day.

Regardless of how you get your training – through a formal training program, an apprenticeship program, or even if you are self-taught – never stop learning.

Knowledge builds confidence. The more confident you have, the more proficient you will be with every dog that crosses your table. Understanding allows you to take advantage of opportunities when they land at your feet. Education, knowledge, and the desire to grow are the tools you need to reach your maximum potential.

What books or learning tools have helped you succeed? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us what works best for you!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa


The NEW Notes From the Grooming Table is HERE!

April 18th, 2016 by Joelle

 

Notes From the Grooming Table has become an industry staple in most grooming salons. My guess is you have at least one copy tucked somewhere in your shop. Others have it right out in the open. The pages are stained, worn, and tattered.

I love seeing books that look like that!

The original Notes was released in 2004. It took three years to create the book. Lisa VanSweden did an amazing job illustrating the entire thing. It was a massive undertaking. There were times I questioned if we would ever complete it. At that time, I was questioning my sanity…

Thanks to all those copies tucked away in grooming salons and on book shelves around the world, Notes From the Grooming Table became one of the most popular grooming books ever written. I don’t question my sanity anymore.

Fast forward 10 years. The AKC was adding recognized breeds at a record pace. New grooming tools were being added to our tool kits. Coat types we had not seen before were walking into everyday pet salons. Styling trends were changing on a number of breeds. I knew it was time to think about updating Notes.

Like everyone else, I had a lot on my plate. When I first created Notes in the early 2000s, I only had one business, The Paragon School of Pet Grooming. Today I oversee four different companies, each with additional sub-companies. It was a lot easier for me to focus solely on writing the book on the first go around. Even then, there was an ongoing joke within my team. They all swore my husband Marc locked me in my home office and threw food under the door. In all honesty, they were not far off – especially in the last 6-8 months. Seven days a week with typical days running between 10-16 hours each.

We started talking about a revision in 2013, but it took until the fall of 2015 before the pieces fell together. Lisa and I felt like it was the Fall of 2003 all over again. The focus and the commitment to this revision was just as intense as the last 6-8 months on the first edition.

As we were getting close to finishing up the written section of Notes (I lost count on how many rounds of proofing went into the new version!) it dawned on us the cover needed to be updated. Hmmmm...

“How do we handle that?’ I thought to myself at the end of a very long day. We were tossing color options around and having a hard time deciding. Then it hit me. The cover should be the color of a nice glass of red wine – something we were all going to be celebrating with once this massive project was finished!

As I write this – I can see the finish line. Yesterday the very first three books hit the office HOT off the press. I don’t even think the ink was dry! We are definitely closing in on the finish line of the Notes From the Grooming Table revision. I can taste a lovely bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon about to get uncorked. If we dribble any on that new front cover, no one will know!

What’s inside? What’s new? Here’s a preview of what has been added to the Second Edition of Notes From the Grooming Table. Check it out.

  • THERE’S MORE! We’ve added 145 more pages.
  • NEW Bathing & Drying sections – including Hairless and Rustic Coats.
  • We’ve added tools and products that did not exist or were not commonly used in pet grooming prior to 2004.
  • Trim style trends on many of the breeds have been updated – including pattern lines and profiles.
  • NEW! What each dog group was designed to do.
  • Replaced the art on a number of illustrations to better showcase the breed.
  • Changed the terminology of guard combs to reflect the diverse brands in use today.
  • Additional illustrations to add clarity to grooming instructions.
  • Grooming directions for 51 new breeds added to the AKC since Notes was first released.
  • FINALLY! A complete index for easy reference.
  • Added the Miscellaneous Group section.

I’m so excited for this second release. Notes has stood the test of time and continues to be a leading reference guide in our industry. It’s been exciting to team up with Lisa VanSweden again to add all the new breeds while utilizing the easy to follow format that has made Notes From the Grooming Table so popular.

The art and diagrams as well as the easy to follow directions continue to be the hallmark of the book.  Every bit of this book was created in the USA – from conception, to creation, to printing, to distribution.

I’m super excited to share this with all of you. If you loved the old Notes From the Grooming Table, you are going to LOVE the second edition!

Make sure you watch previews and announcements coming out. They will tell you where you can get your own copy in the upcoming weeks. We have some special deals we are working on right now if you are one of the first to place your order.

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

Go online and tell us what you think on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.


3 Things You Need to Know to Groom Any Breed (What You Need to Do If a New Breed of Dog Lands on Your Grooming Table)

February 23rd, 2016 by Joelle

It’s a day like any other when you get a phone call from a client:

“I have a (insert breed here). Do you know how to groom them correctly?”

Um…

You’ve never groomed this breed before. In fact, the closest you’ve come to one is seeing it at a dog show. Maybe you’ve never even heard or seen the breed before.

“Why yes, Mrs. Jones, we certainly can make your Bedlington look like a Bedlington!” you say confidently as you book the appointment for the following day.

You hang up the phone and reality sets in. You’ve never seen this type of dog cross your grooming table. You don’t have a clue how to actually groom it correctly. What do you do?

The first thing I would tell you is – don’t panic!

Here are three core strategies you need to groom any breed of dog.
 

  1. Have strong technical skills. If your clipping, guard comb work, scissoring, blending, and basic hand stripping skills are good, you should be able handle this without much of a problem.
  2. Have a solid understanding of canine anatomy. If you understand how bones and muscles create a sound dog, it becomes even easier.
  3. Know how to translate a breed standard. If you can interpret the written breed standard into a visual, you’re golden.

So what is your next step? How are you going to be confident when that client walks in the door tomorrow?

Your next step is to look up the breed in reference books. If you have an American Kennel Club (AKC) Complete Dog Book (or a similar book from your country), start there. This will give you the official breed standard. Review the breed profile. Read about the history of the dog to gather clues about the dog. After a quick scan, you I have a good idea of the size, temperament, and structure of this new dog. Most books will also have photos that accompany each breed. If you don’t have an official breed standard book handy, you can always look it up online.

Once you have become familiar with the breed itself, take a look at your grooming books. Review the instructions. Compare the instructions to what you have read and saw in the breed standard.

The Internet is an invaluable research tool. Use it wisely. Most breeds will have a parent club that hosts an official site for the breed. Spend a few minutes reviewing images of top winning dogs in their galleries. With a little luck, you may even find grooming directions or links to grooming directions from dedicated breeders.

As groomers and stylists, we are a visual bunch. “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This is so true for us. I love to do Google image searches of breeds I’m not familiar with. Here’s a tip to finding good images. When you enter terms in the search bar, add keywords like: AKC Champion Bedlington Terrier or UKC Champion Fresian Water Dog. There is a big difference if you type into your search engine, “images of Miniature Schnauzers” verses “images of AKC Champion Miniature Schnauzers.” You will pull up a WIDE assortment of images. Some will be great. Others not so great. Some will be worthless. And others will be totally off the mark. You need to have enough knowledge to filter through the images, finding the best images to suit your needs.

Use a little caution when looking up information online. Always remember – not everything posted on the internet is correct or presents the best image of a breed. Make sure you use all your resources to gather the most accurate information possible.
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Watching videos on the breed in question is also a great option. Again, a word of caution – not every “how to video” on the internet will be beneficial. Today, anyone can post a video online. Unfortunately, there is a lot of poor quality grooming being featured – especially if it is free. Go to trusted sources like Learn2GroomDogs.com that are truly qualified to demonstrate how to groom a particular breed.

Yes, you need to do a little research. Will it require a little effort? Yep.

However, if you have those three nuggets of knowledge, you will have the foundation skills to groom any breed.

  1. strong technical skills
  2. solid comprehension of canine anatomy
  3. ability to interpret the breed standard

With those 3 skills, you can groom any breed of dog that comes your way.

If you are a newer stylist or just don’t have the time to do all the research, there is a shortcut. Notes From the Grooming Table will allow you to fast track your knowledge. Simply grab the book and turn to the breed you have a question about. We are just about to release the fully updated Second Edition of Notes From the Grooming Table. Keep your eyes open for how to get this revised edition – announcements on how to get yours will be available soon.

As pet groomers and stylists, we get to see plenty of dogs. It’s rare and exciting to get a breed you are not familiar with. Most of us pros enjoy the challenge of learning about a new breed. Figuring out what we will need to do to make the dog look like it should – or could – look like if the owners allow you to groom it correctly.

I know, I know… many owners just want the hair shaved off once they walk through your door. Or the dog is in such poor condition, the only humane option is to shave the coat off and start over. That’s always a disappointment once you’ve put in effort to educate yourself. Hopefully, the new client motivated you to learn few new things you can add to your knowledge toolbox even if you didn’t get to execute the trim!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

Did these tricks help? Go online and tell us what you think on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.


The Challenges of Success

April 1st, 2015 by Joelle

blog imagerrSuccess breeds its own set of challenges. One moment, you’re giddy with glee as you prepare your bank deposits. The next, a wave of anxiety hits you as the phone continues to ring off the hook.

Do you have a business that is growing beyond your wildest dreams? Is your appointment book packed with appointments? Are you booking 3–4–5 or even 6 weeks out? Is your cancellation list brimming with clients hoping to get in sooner? Are your clients growing frustrated when it takes weeks instead of days to book an appointment?

To cope, you pick up extra days and longer hours to help alleviate the backlog. You have no free time to yourself. You become a stranger to your own family because you’re never home. You’re feeling stressed, frustrated, and overwhelmed.

Sound familiar?

Oh, the joys of success. Nobody told you about the other side of the coin.

I’ve been there countless times myself. Depending on the circumstances, I’ve handled it different ways.

Before you can make the correct decision for your situation, you have to do a bit of research. Look at trends in your salon or your business. Is this a seasonal pattern that comes in waves or is it consistently getting more intense? Do you have the space to add more help another grooming station? Can you reconfigure a solution to speed up the process or remove the bottleneck? Can you improve/enhance a piece of equipment to make you more efficient?

Once you firmly understand WHY it is happening, then you can create a game plan that will tackle the issue. The last thing you want to do is to react in a hasty fashion. Slow down and think… What is the best plan of attack for the company?

You will probably have to do a bit of soul-searching. What is it that you want to do – and I mean really want to do? Hold steady, minimize your work load, or grow your business? There is no wrong answer – but there is a right answer for YOU.

You have three choices:

#1: Do nothing.

Even though it’s frustrating, sometimes this is the correct path to take. When would that be?

  • When it’s a seasonal rush
  • If it comes sporadically when 4-5-6 week appointments all collide within the same time frame
  • A team member is temporally out of work

This is a perfect time to push your grooming techniques. In order to improve anything, you need resistance. If you have trouble getting through 6-8 dogs yourself, this might be the motivation you need to get yourself into high gear (for more on this topic, read my blog, The Need for Speed).

Are you working with the best product and equipment? Are your shears and blades super sharp? Is your grooming station stream-lined, neat and tidy?

Is there a bottleneck anywhere? What can you do to loosen the jam?

  • Change the way you check pets in and out for their appointments?
  • Is there a back-up in your wet room? What could you do to free up the gridlock in that area?
  • Look at the way you book appointments. Simply splitting your daily appointments into full haircuts and bath and brush pets could alleviate some of the stress while boosting your bottom line.
  • Get a timer and start timing yourself. Break each grooming into sections: pre-work, bath, dry, and finish work. Most small to medium-sized pets should take an hour or less to do. Set your timer and fight to stay on track (Click here for a helpful handout on time management).

#2: Weed out your clientele. Reduce your active client load.

There are a number of ways to reduce the number of clients you serve.

  • Eliminate a breed or size of dog you are willing to work on.
  • Accept only regular, repeat customers.
  • Eliminate all challenging and/or aggressive pets.
  • Reduce your service area (mobile groomers).
  • Raise your prices.

The last one is easiest and my favorite way to downsize your appointment workload. Depending on how price sensitive your clients are, you could reduce your workload by 10%-30%.

The key to reducing your client load is balance. If you don’t raise the prices enough, you won’t lose enough clients to even notice a difference. Raise them too much and you might have a hard time staying busy enough to pay your bills.

Remember that raising prices is just like trimming hair – you can always take more off. It’s much harder to glue it back once it’s been cut. Price increases work the same way. It’s better to err on the side of too little than hitting them deep in the pocketbook. You can always do another price increase in 6-12 months if you still need to lighten your load.

Personally, I like a sliding scale price increase depending on the size of the dog and the amount of coat. I also believe in warning clietextnts ahead of time. When we do a price increase, we will post a sign predominately in the lobby area a minimum of two months prior to when the price increase will go into effect. We also tell every client what their new price will be at checkout prior to the price increase.

Yes, they grumble. That’s a part of the game – just like bartering at a flea market or a garage sale. They will grumble before, during, and after the price increase goes into effect. Be polite. Be firm. Be professional. Do not apologize. Stick to your guns. It stops with time.

I have seen this technique used over and over again. Most salons that use this method to reduce their client load find they are actually making the same or MORE money with less effort. I call that a win-win.

#3: Expand and grow. Build your client base and serve more customers.

Before you jump – think.

Employing a couple people is simple. Get beyond three or four employees and your role needs to change from pet groomer to serious business/personnel manager. Your life will get much more complicated – in a different way. More clients. More dogs. More responsibility. More training. More challenges.

It’s the nature of the beast. Are you ready for that?

Hiring responsible help is one of the biggest challenges growing salons and businesses have.

If you are skilled stylist, your most valuable asset is locked at your grooming table. There are plenty of duties in any busy grooming business that can be delegated.

Finding a full-fledged, qualified stylist that can seamlessly slide into your team and mimic your salon style is nearly impossible. If one does cross your path, grab that person immediately and count your blessings!

Salon owners report they are most successful hiring and training entry-level type positions to get started. If the new hire shows potential and a willingness to learn, they can advance through the ranks, learning new skills. By doing this, you ensure you put your time and energy into your most valuable team members.

Look for people that could assist you so you can focus on what you do best – grooming dogs. Hiring the right people will allow you to be extremely proficient. You don’t need to be washing dogs, making bows, answering the phones, or doing laundry. These are duties that can be delegated to others, allowing you to focus on finish grooming.

Developing a team of people that are willing to work hard and continue to learn is at the heart of every successful salon.

Finding great information to help your team grow has gotten easier than ever. There are trade shows, seminars, workshops, and clinics across the country that can help grow your team. But even if your team members are unwilling to travel, there still many options.

  • Books and magazines
  • Training manuals
  • State approved home study programs
  • Industry related Certification programs
  • DVDs/online video services
  • Dog shows
  • Mentoring programs
  • In-house training

If you are struggling with hiring, make sure you watch this lesson in the membership-based Learn2GroomDogs.com library. It’s called, “Slope Side Chats – What to Look for in a New Hire.” This is an impromptu lesson that was filmed while skiing in Utah a few years back with my friends and industry leaders, Kathy Rose and Teri DiMarino. In that lesson, Teri states, “…I always hire based on attitude and POTENTIAL.” That single concept is a key to successful hiring.

As with any educational program, always check the references of the material. This is especially true of anything available through the Internet. Remember, the information is only as good as the people presenting it.

Success breeds many challenges. They are great problems to have. Don’t be overwhelmed. Think about your situation and what YOU want to do with your business. You have many routes. Choose your path and then set your sights on your goal. Expand your business or keep it simple. The choice is all yours.

Happy Trimming

~Melissa

PS.

If you are looking for more resources, clicks the links below.

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Time = Money in a Pet Grooming Salon

January 1st, 2015 by Ima Admin

blog imagerrTime is money in our business. Sure, we love pets. I don’t know anyone who gets involved in this career who isn’t passionate about animals. Still – time is money. And in this fast paced world, it never seems any of us have enough of either!

My goal is always to turn a small to medium-sized pet in an hour or less; bathe, dry, haircut, and/or finish-work on a bath and brush style pet.

If you are not turning at least a dog an hour, you have an issue somewhere in your routine.

Here are some ideas/methods that allow seasoned pet professionals to hit that goal. Take a read and see if you can identify ideas you can try to help increase your speed in the grooming department. The times given are for small to medium-sized pets. Read the rest of this entry »


How to Encourage Cold Weather Appointments

December 18th, 2014 by Ima Admin

blog imagerrDo you live in a climate where you have seasonal changes in the weather patterns? For many groomers, the number of grooming appointments dips with the temperature. This can be a real problem if you rely on your grooming income to pay your bills!

How do you combat that problem? Encourage pre-booking.

It always amazes me how many clients have no idea what their pet needs in terms of coat care when the temperatures plummet.

Professional pet grooming is service driven. That means you must be a problem solver – even when your clients don’t know they have a problem! Thus, you become not only the problem solver but also the educator!

Just prior to some of the coldest weather of the season in the northern hemisphere, we have one of our busiest seasons – the holidays. Take advantage of your good fortune.

Here are 6 of the most common problems associated with colder weather: Read the rest of this entry »


The Art of Packaging – Gifts for Grooming Clients

December 10th, 2014 by Ima Admin

Holiday Packaging #1rrI love this time year. There is so much to do. So many details to attend to. So many opportunities to visit with friends and family. So many thoughtful gifts to give and receive. Everything revolves around people we love and appreciate – including our clients.

For many of us in the pet grooming business, this is one of the busiest times of year. The fur is flying, clippers are clipping, scissors are sculpting, and festive bows adorn most pets as they walk out the doors.

This is also the time year that clients can be extremely generous with gifts. Do you have a special gift ready to reciprocate?

When I ran my mobile grooming business of 6 vans, we gave bags of assorted dog biscuit treats. Even though we packaged up the bags a day or two ahead of time, gift-giving for all our clients had become quite the chore.

At that time, a good friend lived with me. She was a fashion designer and has since gone on to become a very successful stylist for photo and video shoots. Her attention to detail was immense. She watched me early one morning as I was assembling the gifts. The kitchen was totally lined with white – individually decorated – paper lunch bags. There must have been at least 40 of them. I had CASES of biscuits lining the edges. “After all, each gift had to have a wide assortment…” or so I thought. Read the rest of this entry »


New Release: Creating Consistency in Your Grooming Business

December 3rd, 2014 by Ima Admin

CreatingConsistencyinYourGroomingBusinessThis new video release features a great conversation with seasoned professional pet stylists, Lindsay Dicken, Marc LaFleur, and Melissa Verplank  about building consistency.  What makes this discussion truly interesting was their variety of grooming backgrounds.  You’ll discover a few common threads kept surfacing as they talked.  It did not matter if the business was a small or large salon, a mobile groomer, or a fixed location grooming salon.

Amazingly, they all found solutions to this pesky problem in a similar way.

Join this group as they share their experiences with you.  You get to be a fly on the wall as they talk about ways to build consistency within their grooming businesses.


 
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