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The Art of Giving Great Service – The Zingerman Way

bookAbout 6 years ago I read a great book while sailing on my dad’s boat. It was Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 1: Building a Great Business.  At one point, my dad picked up the book. He read a few paragraphs I had highlighted when I went below. When I returned a few minutes later, he said, “Good book. They know what they are talking about.” Wow. Coming from my dad, that meant a lot.

Zingerman’s is an institution in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Hailed by Inc. Magazine as The coolest small company in America,” the original business was founded in 1982 with Zingerman’s Delicatessen. Since then, Zingerman’s has expanded to 11 food-related business, 724 staff members, and sales of over $62 million.

Service is a cornerstone of Zingerman’s success. Zingerman’s has earned its reputation for great service by intentionally creating a culture that nurtures amazing service. They teach every one of their team members system “recipes” which are at the heart of their extraordinary service. 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 »


4 Ways You Can Make a Better Day

dogIt’s Monday morning.  You walk into your salon with coffee in hand and look at your appointment book.  Hmmm… You’ve overbooked – and by the look of things, you’ve also scheduled too many oversize dogs.  What’s this?  Uh oh.  THAT customer is coming in today.  The one you can never seem to please.  And your first dog always decorates your table with unpleasant treats throughout the entire groom.

We’ve all had days like this. It’s all part of being a professional pet groomer.

I still remember the day I had 16 dogs on my schedule. When I first looked at my workload, I was totally overwhelmed.

But then I really looked at it…

…and chose positivity over panic.

I changed my thought process and my attitude.  I couldn’t change my schedule, but I could change my outlook.  I couldn’t change the fact that there was a lot of work ahead of me, but if I looked for the positives, I would see how much I stood to gain.

By the end of the day, a lot of dogs were going to look and feel a lot better.  And since I had been a commission-based stylist, I was going to have a lot of money in my pocket – not including the tips that were sure to come! This was going to be a good day!

Have you ever stopped and thought about how a day is going to unfold?  Has it ever dawned on you that you are ultimately in control of the day?  You are.

brooke

Ultimately, we choose our thoughts.  We can also control what we choose to believe.

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So how do you turn your thoughts and beliefs into affirmative actions?  Is the glass half-full or half-empty?  It’s both – and how you choose to interpret how you feel about that fact is what forms your outlook.

Here are 4 ways to mentally take charge of your grooming day that will boost both your outlook and your productivity.

Planning

anchors-aweighUltimately, you oversee your time and choose how to manage it.  To get the most out of your day it makes sense to plan it as efficiently as possible.

When I had a lot of dogs to get through, I chose an assembly line grooming technique.  This works whenever you have two or more pets to work on.  If you are mobile and the family has multiple pets, take them all at once to your mobile unit.

This is the order that has always worked efficiently for me.  I started with bathing the largest and furriest dog, working down the line to the smallest, lightest coated pet.  Once all my pets were bathed, I started the active drying process.  To determine which dog to start with, I simply reversed the order.  I started with the smallest, lightest coated pet working up to the furriest.  Once everybody was bathed and dried, I started the finish process.  Typically, I started with whatever was the fastest and easiest to move through the rotation.

Always look at your whole day, first.  Take a little bit of time to plan and organize it based on what has been scheduled.  No matter how chaotic it looks, if you believe you can get through it – you will.  That’s half the battle!

Focus

All of us are given 168 hours per week.  For those of us that work full time, about one quarter of it will be spent at work.  That’s not a bad trade if you are passionate about your job.  Plus, it offers the opportunity to earn a living by doing what you enjoy.

Yet, no matter how passionate you are about grooming – it can become unsatisfying or even stressful if you do not learn how to manage your time and focus.

I know stylists that are extremely happy doing just four dogs a day.  If you are one of those groomers – consider yourself very fortunate.  You have the luxury of time.  There are many professional groomers who rely heavily on grooming to support their families and need to groom more pets to sustain their lifestyle and standard of living.

Most efficient, seasoned pros can do between 6 and 12 dogs a day without sacrificing safety or quality.  If they work with an assistant, their productivity only goes up.

How do they do it?

They are totally focused on the task.  They are not distracted by phone calls, emails, Facebook, or idle chatter with coworkers.  They are 100% focused on the pet.  Most experienced pet stylists can turn a small to medium size pet in 30 to 60 minutes.  That includes everything:  bath, blow dry, nail trim, ear cleaning, and full brush-out/haircut.  Larger or extremely heavy coated dogs may take a bit longer.

If you are struggling to hit the time mark of one hour or less per dog, eliminate distractions.  Start timing yourself on a regular basis.  Break the grooming process apart and set time goals for each step.  Most people will find the bathing and drying process is the major time hog that can be improved upon.

Don’t Be Perfect

Of course, you need to produce quality results to bring clients back.  But does every pet that walks out your door honestly need to be show ring perfect?  Really perfect?  Not a hair out of place?  Probably not.

Focus on the fundamentals.  Keep the pet safe and injury free.  Get them squeaky, squeaky clean.  Remove all mats, tangles, and loose undercoat.  Get them blown out to perfection (this is where you can shine – most pet parents do not own a high velocity blow dryer).  Get smooth clipper work.  Trim those nails and make sure the ears are clean.  And don’t forget – a super cute face.

Do not nit-pick the job to death.  Even in the contest ring, the grooms are not perfect.  Do the best you can and then move to the next pet.

The Word “No”

There is unbelievable power in this word.  It doesn’t have to be negative and shouldn’t feel uncomfortable to say.

All of us are given 24 hours in a day.  It is up to us to decide how we are going to use it.  If you are overloaded or getting close, the most powerful word in your vocabulary is, “No.”

However, before you use it (especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed) analyze your day.

  • What can you do to make the day more manageable?
  • Do the problems stem from your overall attitude?
  • Is it a lack of experience and/or knowledge of skills causing the problem?
  • Are inefficient products or equipment slowing you down?

If you are truly being pushed to the brink and can’t squeeze anything more out of your grooming day, it might be time to embrace the “less is better” concept.

Even though we all get to choose what we say yes to, there are trade-offs for every choice we make.  If our work days are already full and we say yes to one thing – one more dog, one more customer – we must say no to another item on our agenda.

I have two suggestions for this dilemma.

First, if you have too many customers – and you don’t want to hire more help – you need to eliminate a few clients.  One of the easiest, and most rewarding ways to streamline your client base is to raise your grooming prices.  By raising your prices, you will automatically weed out the customers that do not value or can afford your services.  Typically, you can free up your time without sacrificing your earning capacity.

Your second option is to focus on your most valuable clients.  Those regular clients you see every six weeks or less.  Take the time to schedule them in advance.  Taking control of them first makes it much easier to say “no” to customers who don’t use your services as often.  Many highly regarded pet stylists book a year in advance.  They take full control of their schedule and take care of their most valuable customers.

Both scenarios ultimately utilize the word “no.”  No, you will not cut a special deal for certain clients.  And no, you will not take any clients that do not fit your ideal regular client profile unless you honestly have room to work them in.

Always be aware of your attitudes and how they are affecting your actions.  Always learn from your past but then let it go.  Look forward to creating the future you want.

Life is full of variables.  Our perception becomes our reality.  Whatever you choose to believe will either help you move forward or hold you back.

The choice is yours.  Make it a good one.

~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


Get ’em Talking

The lifeblood of any successful business is positive word of mouth marketing – but how do you get people to talk about you? The answer is simple.

IMAGErrDynamite customer service.

When it comes to creating amazing customer service, there are a few things you need to focus on.

  1. delight your customers
  2. earn their trust and respect
  3. be interesting
  4. make it easy for them to talk about you

Going the extra mile pays huge dividends. Yet sometimes you don’t have to even go that extra mile. Sometimes it’s the simple things like:

  • helping people and their pets
  • solving problems
  • treating both the client and the pets with dignity and respect
  • creating a warm, clean, and safe environment

If you genuinely care about your business and your career – none of the items listed above are difficult.

One my companies, Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa, is phenomenal at impressing people which in turn gets them talking. We do virtually zero paid advertising. Instead, we focus on those four key elements listed above; delighting our customers, being interesting, earning our clients’ trust, and making it easy for them to talk about us.

Here are a few examples.

We offer full facility tours ANYTIME we are open to the public. We have extended hours from 6 AM until 9 PM Monday through Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, the resort is open from 7 AM to 8 PM.

When folks tour the facility, it is an automatic wow factor. Even though we have 180 rooms for the dogs, it is always spotless. It’s wide open and inviting. The noise levels are not out-of-control for a facility the size. One area of any pet care facility most people do not give a lot of thought to but it makes a HUGE impression. The smell. Rarely is a tour given where the participants don’t comment on this fact. We normally get that wide open expression people get when they are surprised. They look at us and say, “I would never guess there are over 200 dogs here! There is NO doggy odor!!” We pride ourselves on the fact that it always smells fresh and clean.

Our tours get people talking. Stop and think about it – what do you think someone is going to do as soon as they leave the tour? They have just experienced an amazing place that can help them solve many problems when it comes to their beloved family pets. Most of our prospective clients race home to tell their friends and family. Almost all of them become customers.

Here is another way to foster word of mouth marketing. Photos and events. Over the years, the Whiskers team has hosted many special events for both our overnight guests and doggie daycare clients. The entire goal for these events it to get people talking in the community. The parties are promoted through our monthly client newsletter and Facebook page. It works.

In fact, parties and photos worked so well, we’ve scaled back the amount of parties we offer. Why? Because we operate at over 100% occupancy rate during most of the summer season, almost all weekends through the year and major holidays we’re booked out weeks – if not months – in advance.

Even though these examples are talking about a pet resort – the grooming spa feeds off the same frenzy the word of mouth marketing creates. At the resort, the grooming department is open 7 days a week and with two shifts running on most days.

So how do you apply this type of marketing to your business?

First, make sure you have remarkable grooming and customer service skills. If there any weak links – fix them. You need to be able to delight your customers with your grooming skills while winning their respect and trust. Once you have done that, then you can start getting creative with the fun stuff. How to get clients and prospective clients talking about you. What will make you interesting? What will make you stand out from your competitors? If you are successful – people will start talking about you.

Remember, you need to make it easy for your customers. If they adore what you were doing – they will automatically love talking about you with their family, friends, coworkers, or anyplace people gather.

So here are a few ideas that you can use to help spread the word while making it easy for others to find you. On every piece of promotional material that goes out, whether it be print or in digital format, your name, address, and contact information easy to find and readily accessible.

  • Facebook Page – Make it appeal to your customers. Have fun with it. Post appealing photos you take while working. Add items that would be of general interest to the bulk of your customers. Pet general health. Fun things to do with your dog. Behavior and training articles. Recipes that cater to dogs or cats. Find things that will make people smile and laugh that are pet related. Always keep it clean. Always keep it professional.
  • Email Addresses – In this digital age, capturing an email address is more important than a street address. Having a robust email contact list will be your most economical source to stay in touch with your customers and potential customers. Always – always look for ways to collect email addresses.
  • Create a Monthly or Quarterly Client Newsletter – Electronic newsletters do not have to be long. Two or three smaller articles or points of interest are generally enough in our fast-paced information loaded society. Combine the articles with a few promotions you have scheduled for the month or for the quarter. And make sure it easy for your customers to share the newsletter through other social media outlets.
  • Special Events – Even if you do not have room to host a full-fledged party, don’t let that stop you from doing something special for your customers are participating at events. Most small towns have a parade – maybe they are taking part. What about charity dog walking events? Matching themed T-shirts and bandannas combined with freshly groomed dogs from your salon can make a big impact in the community. Maybe you give them a free spa upgrade with a special gift to take home. On Valentine’s Day, make sure every dog leaves with a special treat – maybe a rose with a card attached to it “signed” by the dog. Maybe you do a free pet facial or pet-i-cure. Whatever the event – make sure you have the promotional materials at your fingertips. That will make it easy for them to pass along your contact information when they talk about whatever interesting event you just hosted. Pay attention to details.
  • Encourage people to talk about you – Post signs around your salon. On your front door. Add it to your receipts. Make sure it is on all your informational handouts and service menus. Encouraged people to speak in a positive light about your services. Make it a personal goal to make your customer smile – or better yet – aim for a reaction that makes them gleam as they say thank you. Do something memorable!
  • Business Website – Make sure that it is clean and easy to navigate. It doesn’t have to be long or lengthy. With smaller businesses, simplicity can go a long way. Pictures are worth 1000 words – so make sure you use high quality images to support your text. One of the most popular pages on any website is the gallery. This is a wonderful place to showcase your facility and or your work. You don’t need 100 photos – that would be overwhelming and too difficult for most devices to download. 10 to 15 of your best images will do. Also, don’t forget to make sure your website transfers cleanly between computer and handheld devices.

These are just a few ideas to help you get folks talking about you. There are thousands of ways to get the ball rolling – it just takes a little forethought and creativity on your part.

Happy customers are always your greatest advertisers. If you expect them to share their experiences with you, you’re going to have to help it along. To spur it along, make sure you give people a simple message to share and then ways to help them pass it along to others.

Remember, you need to give prospective customers and clients a positive reason to talk about you. People do not talk about things that bore them. They do not talk about just acceptable service. The only talk about things that excite them. Delight them. Wow them. If you focus on making your customers happy, earning their trust and respect – they’re going to start talking about you.

Word-of-mouth marketing is the most effective form of marketing any service company can do. It will far outperform any coupon or paid advertisement you can run anywhere. When people share their experiences about your company to their friends, family, coworkers and associates, It’s the highest compliment they can get. They are putting their trust in to you. They are encouraging people they know to use your services. That’s success and that’s the reason you need to get them talking about you!
Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

How do YOU deliver amazing customer service? Go online and tell us about it on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.


Is Your Image Newsworthy?

If your local TV news station were to drop by – unannounced – to do a story about you and your business, would you be prepared? What about your local newspaper? Could you make a great impression to the community as they interview you with cameras flashing? Would you be proud of your shop? Your staff? Yourself?

Impressions are made in an instant. It doesn’t matter whether it is a TV news crew, reporter, or client. If you are open for business, you need to be prepared to be splashed across the screen or featured on the front page of your local newspaper.

Be honest. Can you proudly flaunt your business, even if the local media showed up without notice?

If you shudder at the thought, you need to take the steps necessary to create a professional image. You want to create a lasting, positive impression on your clients – and prospective clients.

It takes less than 30 seconds for people to form an opinion about you and your business. Don’t forget, we’re not just talking about what the client sees, but what they smell and hear.

I’ve been in this industry over 30 years with multiple businesses and this has happened many times. If there is a slow news day, nothing can fill the space better than our furry friends! I make sure that my companies understand that cleanliness and professional appearance are a top priority. They need to be prepared and ready to be front page news – at all times. You never know when an opportunity to shine will present itself.

As pet care ambassadors, it our job to groom pets but also our job to present a professional image for our industry. We cannot afford to look like we just rolled out of bed. Take a moment each day to put yourself together so that you would be proud to be featured in your local media.

Which side looks more professional?

Which side looks more professional?

I don’t know any successful person who doesn’t sweat the details. Being impeccable, both personally and in your work space, shows the client that you care about yourself. The message you are sending out is that you are confident with your skills. That you are successful. That you respect yourself enough to do the same for them – and for their pet. It also shows that you care about your client.

I know it can get tiring to dress up a little every day. However, our clients are entrusting us with the care of their pets. Like it or hate it, you can easily influence their trust by simply changing the way you look when you greet your clients. Think of yourself as your own brand. Don’t you want your product to be consistent and look great? Of course! And your clients are looking for that, too.

A neat, well-groomed appearance is essential when it comes to professionalism in this industry. You need to dress in a way that attracts clientele.

Come to work each day looking crisp, clean, and pulled together. Blue jeans, sweat pants, and athletic shorts ARE NOT professional attire! They don’t inspire confidence. Black, white, or khaki slacks work well. Longer skirts are great for women in warmer climates. Conservative shorts or Capri’s may work for your environment, as well. Matching grooming pants are also nice. I’ve even seen dressy leggings work when paired with an over-sized, long, top or smock. Look for clothing that is not prone to wrinkling or be prepared to learn how to iron!

Today, there are many options for hair-repelling garments. There are all types of tops and bottoms in a wide variety of styles. If you work in a salon with a dress code, this may be easier. If not, have some fun with the pet styling fashions that are available. It may even be a good idea to keep an extra outfit or smock around the shop as a back-up. If you get drenched or messy, a quick change will instantly boost your comfort level and mood.

Consider the color of your outfit, as well. If your logo is blue, you may want to consider this your brand color and wear it everyday.  It will make you instantly recognizable to your clients.

Remember, low-cut tops and short-shorts are never appropriate. If you have shorts that are too short or a top that is too revealing (especially when you are squatting down to pick up a dog), it just doesn’t look professional. Muscle shirts and shirts with the sleeves cut off don’t make the grade, either.

Being professional means speaking, behaving, and dressing in a manner that tells people you are qualified to do the job. If your appearance causes anyone to doubt – even for a second – that you don’t know what you’re doing, you could lose their business before they even see your work.

Proper hygiene is also crucial. It should go unsaid, but being clean and odor-free is a must. There is nothing more offensive – and embarrassing – than personal body odor. The famous motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, noted, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” Nothing could be more true!

Your own hair needs to be clean and neatly styled. If your hair is long, tie it back and away from your face. As your work with clippers or shears, you don’t want to be trimming a lock of your own hair as you scissor that leg. I hate to think of how many people with long hair have caught their tresses in the spinning grinder as they worked. Ouch! Or worse yet, drag it through anal gland expressions, defecation, or urine.

Having a touch of jewelry is a nice finishing touch. Done well, it always reflects positively. However, just like with fragrance – go light. A few simple rings. A durable watch (and you always need to know the time!!). If your ears are pierced – stick with super simple earrings – something a dog can’t accidentally catch in a paw, ripping your ear lobe. If you opt for a necklace, keep it tasteful. Don’t be in love with it. Dogs will catch it in their paws and break it, eventually. The same thing with is true with bracelets.

Having well-groomed fingernails is what I consider a bonus. Working with dirty dogs and trimming toenails lends itself to dirty fingernails – even if you do a lot of bathing. Trimming Poodle feet has a tendency chip fingernails. Personally, I liked to keep my nails painted. Painted fingernails will hide all sorts of flaws. Unfortunately, when you do a lot of bathing, standard nail polish has a tendency to peel off quickly – sometimes in as little as one day. My solution was to have my fingernails professionally done every two weeks. Both acrylic and shellac nail applications seem hold up well to the abuse groomers put their hands through. Ragged nails on women or men can be easily tidied up. When you give the pet to the owner, their eyes are naturally drawn to your fingers as you hand over the leash. Wouldn’t filed nails make a great impression? Plus, it gives you a little time to pamper your most valuable asset – YOUR HANDS!

Pay attention to the details. Judy Hudson is one our popular Learn2GroomDogs.com Training Partners. In her video, What I Know For Sure, she shares this tip: “It doesn’t cost a lot to be clean. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to be neat and tidy. All it takes is a little elbow grease.”

The next time your local news company calls for an interview, you’re going to have the confidence to greet them at the door even if you only have a few moments notice before they arrive. When your image is splashed across the TV screen, you’re going to be proud of what you see – and your clients and prospective clients will be impressed.

There is no amount of marketing dollars that can buy free publicity. Are you ready for the media to show up on YOUR doorstep?

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

>P.S.

You never know when the media will knock on your door! Has this ever happened to you? Go online and tell us about it on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.


The #1 Strategy to Build a Thriving Clientele

Marketing has always been an interesting component to running any of my companies. After all, if I don’t have customers, I don’t have a business. And if my business isn’t flourishing, I do not earn a paycheck – and speedneither do any of my team members.

Here are a couple of questions I’m asked all the time:

  • What’s your secret to creating a thriving company?
  • How do you get repeat clients?

Do you know what’s at the heart of all businesses?

People.

I don’t care how much you love the animals, it’s the people who make companies thrive. And people are experts at knowing if they FEEL valued. That goes for both your staff and your clients. If you’re working with a team of people, it has a trickle-down effect. It’s important to treat your staff with respect. With dignity. With fairness. Bottom line, make them feel valued. If you can do that successfully with your team members, they will in turn treat the customers in the same manner.

When it comes to service-based businesses, you’re not selling the service of grooming dogs or cats. In professional services, you’re not really selling YOUR expertise. It’s taken for granted that you must know what you’re doing. What you are selling is a personal relationship. A relationship with the owner.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work with all types of professional groomers and stylists. I have seen some of the most talented pet stylists struggle to maintain a healthy clientele. Even if they were passionate about their trade, maintaining a robust clientele and growing a business just wasn’t in the cards for them. At the same time, I have seen mediocre groomers grow an amazing repeat client base that keeps their appointment book overflowing.

What’s the difference?

It stems from the ability to interact positively with their staff and the clients. In the end, the most successful grooming salons are professionally run AND highly personable. They have the ability to win over the customers, building their trust with their precious four-legged babies. Simply put, it’s a personality contest – just like in high school!

Always remember, most clients of complex services cannot gauge knowledge.

They can’t tell…

  • If their tax return was done exceptionally well.
  • If they have had an insightful diagnosis on a complicated illness.
  • If they have a brilliant attorney that’s going to win their case.
  • If they are going to get a fabulous grooming job on their pet.

What a client or a perspective client can tell is if they were involved in a positive relationship.

They can tell…

  • If phone calls are returned.
  • If they are treated politely.
  • If the job was completed when it was promised.
  • If their pets are treated with compassion.

In a service-based business like pet grooming, having a highly personalized team of people handle your clientele is the key to a thriving business. Technical skills will only take you so far. Being able to win over the trust and hearts of your clientele is the real key to a successful grooming business.

Grooming salons and pet stylists who have captivated more than 60% retention rate of their clientele is going to succeed in any market. If your salon or stylist isn’t retaining over 40% of their appointments, you need to look deep within your level of service – dissected and fix it.

Make your clients feel special.

  1. Listen to their needs.
  2. Solve their problems.
  3. Treat them with dignity and respect.
  4. Handle their pets with kindness and compassion.
  5. Under-promise and over-deliver on everything you can do for them.
  6. Always be grateful and thankful they are giving you the opportunity to serve them.

 If your technical skills are not up to par – improve them.

  1. Become a more talented groomer/stylist by increasing your knowledge base.
  2. Continuously practice to improve your current technical skill base; bathing, drying, clipping, scissoring, thinning, and hand-stripping.
  3. Learn to be more efficient with your grooming time.
  4. Always work with safety, quality, and compassion worked into the equation.
  5. Constantly push yourself to a higher level in everything that you do.

If you focus on making people feel valued – while offering a solid service – people will follow you. It will seek out the services you offer. I’d love to say people will flock to you just because you are the best groomer in the area, but they won’t. You have to win their respect – and their trust. And you do that by being personable.

And the real beauty of this? Treating people with respect so that they feel valued doesn’t cost anything. It takes is a grateful attitude, a smile, and the willingness to serve with a heart.

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

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


How to Avoid Stress & Burnout

Professional stress and burnout is the number one thing that stops a successful career in its tracks. So how do you keep it from happening? How do you keep your job fresh? Fun? Rewarding?

Here are a few of my top suggestions.

Difficult Dogs

Dealing with difficult dogs or cats is one of the biggest challenges we face every day. You know the feeling in your gut when you see them on your appointment book. Those feelings of dread, anger, and sometimes fear – those negative emotions that get associated with one pet or client. You begin fretting about them right away, don’t you?

I don’t know many people who enjoy dealing with an uncooperative pet. One of the easiest ways to minimize your stress level is to simply eliminate them from your schedule.

There are plenty of nice, well-behaved dogs in the world to groom. I strongly suggest not doing any more than you can handle confidently and safely. Your skill level should dictate how much you can comfortably take on. Typically, the more experience you have, the more challenging the pet you can safely handle. To stay safe, know your limits – and the limits of the pet entrusted to you.

Here is the rating scale I’ve used to rate a dog’s (or cat’s) personality.

#1: Perfect angel on the grooming table. We love these pets!

#2: Bouncy and wiggly. Does not respect rules and boundaries but is not mean or nasty. They are a bit of a handful to deal with on the grooming table.

#3: Will bite when provoked (tugging on mats, cleaning ears, and trimming nails). With the exception of these trigger points, the pet can tolerate the rest of the grooming process.

#4: Will bite – even the smallest thing sets this personality type off. They cannot be trusted. A well-fitted muzzle can be helpful – and many times, necessary. They require a seasoned and experienced handler/groomer to keep both the pet and the person safe.

#5: Dangerous and unpredictable. Eyes will typically glow red or green. Good candidate for veterinarian-supervised grooming with a sedative.

You should consider charging extra for handling difficult pets. They take more time to groom – and time is money. Let your fee reflect it.

Difficult owners

This one can be a little tricky. If they are just mildly annoying, deal with it professionally but don’t put any more effort into the client than needed to keep them at bay. If they are rude and nasty, most likely they are just that way all the time – that’s how they go through life. I would do a great job for them, just like with any other client, but I would not go out of my way to do anything “special.”

If they are difficult to deal with AND neglect their pooch or do not respect my time, I would charge extra for that.

Just as we rate our dogs, at times we will rate difficult owners.

I have no problem referring #4 or #5 rated pets and/or owners to another groomer who might be more successful in meeting their needs (i.e. – always fire them professionally and politely).

Lateness

Nothing is more frustrating than a client who does not respect our time! We give them a 15-minute window to arrive, either to  arrive to their scheduled appointment or to pick up their pet. If they do not arrive within that window, it counts as a strike against them. For arrivals, we have a three strike rule…

  • Strike one: we let them off with a mild warning.
  • Strike two: we remind them how much we value our time. If they can’t value it as well, they will need to look for another stylist.
  • Strike three: we fire them.

If they do not pick up their pet prior to our posted closing times, we give a few extra minutes. As soon as we know they are running late, we try to get in touch with the owner. If the owner calls and can give us a reasonable estimated pick-up time, my staff has the option of waiting for them if it’s beyond closing time. I will post a hefty late pick-up fee (in 5-minute intervals) but leave it up to the employee to charge it. If they waited, they get to keep the entire late pick up fee as long as they collect it. If we can’t reach them or have not heard from them, we’ll bed the pet down for the night. We leave a pleasant note on the door for the client. We simply state our hours and let them know we look forward to seeing them in the morning. I have heard many salons charge an overnight fee, too.

5 More Quick Suggestions

Each one of these could be a blog topic on its own. However, for right now, I’ll just toss these out there for you to ponder.

  1. Keep learning to make your career interesting while allowing you to expand your career opportunities.
  2. Take time for yourself and your family.
  3. Maintain physical health and wellness through diet and exercise.
  4. Learn to say NO when your schedule becomes overwhelming.
  5. Charge enough for your services. Avoiding living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Don’t forget the little things that made this career attractive to you in the first place – never forget WHY you followed this career path. This is a career with UNLIMITED potential for those willing to stay focused. Work hard – and never stop learning. How cool is that?

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

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


Am I a Good Boss?

Welcome to my blog!  For the next few weeks, my marketing expert, Joelle Asmondy, will be filling in for me while I work on a large project.  Joelle is a whiz with marketing.  I can’t wait to see which helpful tidbits she shares with you!  Enjoy!

Let’s take a little poll:

  • How many of you own or run a salon?
  • Which of you have a degree in business or have taken any business classes?
  • Has anyone taken any management classes?

That sounds about right.

One of the best things about going to trade shows is meeting people. I get to talk to people from all over the country and I love it when they tell me their stories. We talk about dogs (of course), dog books (um, yeah!), and working with dogs (why not?). It’s a great way for me to stay in touch with our clients’ needs and find out what people are really thinking about.

Let me share a conversation that I have all the time…

“I became a groomer because I love dogs. At first, I just had a few clients. It started with friends and family, then their friends heard about me, and I got even busier. I got to the point where I had to hire someone just to keep up! Now I groom, book appointments, answer phones, run my own business, AND I have (one, two, three…) groomer(s) working for me!”

Sound familiar?

I love that so many dog grooming businesses have grown in such an organic way. It starts with a passion, grows because we’re needed, and thrives because we’re good at what we do. Our clients keep coming back because they know we love their pets and care about their health and safety.

The flip side to this is that very few people who own or manage these businesses have any formal training in supervising employees. We suddenly find ourselves in the role of “boss” simply because we needed help. For many, it’s a natural fit and the transition is painless. For others, the change is more challenging.

The question of the day is, “Are You a Good Boss?” The answer may surprise you.

I reached out to folks from the industry and asked them about the best qualities of their managers. Many of the answers were similar. Let’s look at the answers together and see if we can understand what it really means to be a good boss.

“I’ve grown a lot by working here.”

Do you take the time to offer praise as well as constructive criticism? In busy salons, it can become easy to fall into the habit of communicating like our furry customers – we bark at each other instead of talking. Don’t let a hectic schedule become an excuse for bad manners or meanness. Remember, you’re not just running a business, you’re building a culture. Do you want yours to be team-oriented or hostile and withdrawn? Things don’t get done any faster or better with rudeness than with courtesy.

“She’s willing to try new ideas.”

If you want employees who step up and really help out, you have to be open to trying new things. “That’s the way we’ve always done it,” will quickly kill initiative. Employees who feel like they have input into bettering the process tend to stick around longer and contribute more to the overall business. After all, isn’t that what you need?

“He’s organized.”

If you are constantly running late, running out of stock, and running out of patience, you could be running yourself right out of business. Let your team help you get things in order. Delegate duties that are well-suited to them. It empowers them and also takes a few things off your plate.

“She encourages me.”

I once worked for an amazing supervisor who motivated me just by being encouraging. I tried a new sales approach once, and it went so well that she had me present it to others in our district. Knowing that she believed in me did more than compliment me, it made me want to work even harder!

“He tells me how I can improve in a positive way.”

Two words: constructive criticism. It’s easy to tell someone when they do something wrong. If you want change that sticks, it takes a little more work.

  • Use the sandwich technique: tell them what you liked, tell them what needs to change, then offer positive feedback.
  • Be specific: saying something is done wrong is not helpful. WHAT was wrong about it? HOW should it be done next time? WHY is it important that it be done right?
  • Don’t attack the person, attack the problem: telling someone they’re terrible at trimming nails hasn’t solved anything. Look at the problem – in this case, quicking too many nails – and look at technique. If a person isn’t trained properly, they can’t be blamed for doing something wrong.
  • Don’t assume they know what you mean: it may sound simple to you, but it may not seem that obvious to them. It’s impossible to over-communicate.

“We never stop trying to get better.”

Complacency is the enemy of good business. Successful businesses are always trying to become better, more efficient, and less wasteful.

“She says, “thank you.”

Those are magic words, aren’t they? Thank you for staying late. Thank you for helping me carry in the supplies. Thank you for helping that elderly client to her car. Recognizing effort boosts morale and encourages them to keep giving their best.

“He tells me what is needed and doesn’t expect me to read his mind.”

“I shouldn’t have to tell them…”

“It’s just plain old common sense!”

Work on removing these phrases from your vocabulary. Just because you’ve done something a thousand times doesn’t mean other people understand it as thoroughly as you do. Take a minute, take a breath, and give them the benefit of the doubt.

“She recognizes effort even if we fall short of a goal.”

All success is success. It’s ok to be excited about progress even if you didn’t get quite all the way there. Learn from the experience and try again. Sometimes shared enthusiasm or experience is what’s needed to really make things happen.

Whether you became a manager by choice or by coincidence, it’s important to know how to be a good boss. Building a team and a business takes work – and you don’t have to do it alone. By developing a positive culture, you’re helping to make a better work environment that will attract better employees, will help keep your best staff, and will make your days a lot better.

What topics would you like us to cover?  Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us.

Click here for a complete video list to make searching Learn2GroomDogs.com even easier! 

Make it a great day!

~Joelle Asmondy


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