I often say there are shades of gray in pet grooming.
How many dogs a day you should groom is one of the BIG gray areas! The number will be different for everybody. Some people feel overwhelmed grooming even three dogs in a full day. Other people can do 16 while barely breaking a sweat.
Here are just a handful of the scenarios affecting the number of dogs that might be groomed in a day.
I’m sure you could add a few more to this list!
Typically, when someone first graduates from grooming school or is new to the industry, productivity is not high on their skill list. Rather, their focus is on thoroughness, quality, and safety.
New groomers will improve their speed as they develop skills and confidence. They need experience. They need coaching. They need guidance to create an effective grooming system. The system allows thoroughness while enhancing the quality of their work and the pace in which they do it.
If you’re a seasoned pet stylist, you’ve learned many of the tricks that allow you to be efficient. You’ve learned how to quickly assess a pet and easily determine its grooming needs. You are thorough. You work safely. You have a strong base of repeat customers.
Over the years I’ve seen beginners struggle to get through three dogs. I’ve seen highly efficient, seasoned stylists get through 16 or more dogs in the single day and still have the time and energy to have a little “me time” that evening. Where do you fall on the scale? Where would you like to be?
Being able to work quickly and skillfully can also be impacted by the layout of your work space. Are you set up for maximum efficiency? A bad layout will add unnecessary footsteps to your day and waste your time and energy.
Your equipment, tools, and products will also help or hurt you. Many products will enhance your speed and the quality of your final product. Do you have access to high-quality, time-saving, products and tools? When used correctly, they are well worth the investment and can help you groom more pets efficiently.
If you are a solo stylist either in your own salon or mobile setting, 6 to 8 dogs will likely be your maximum. In addition to grooming pets, independent business owners have a wide range of duties and responsibilities. They are the receptionist, the bookkeeper, the marketer, the janitor, and the record keeper – along with every other task it takes to run a successful business. If you are a mobile stylist, you also have driving and van maintenance added to your list of responsibilities.
Efficiency comes into play when pet grooming establishments start building a team. You cannot build a successful business or team with inefficient team members. Inefficient teams will not be able to groom as many pets as their efficient counterparts.
Financial need affects dog numbers. To get a decent paycheck, everyone needs to pull their weight. If you are hired onto a team or work with an assistant, you will have quotas to meet. Some quotas are determined by dog numbers. Other businesses use financial sales volume. Both help determine how many dogs are groomed each day.
Typically, once you start working with others, dog volume increases. In most salons, a team of people working together will be expected to do a minimum of eight dogs a day or more. When you’re working within a team, everybody has a specialty. Each person can focus on what they do best, whether it’s customer service, bathing and drying, or pet trimming and styling. If you have an assistant doing the bathing and drying for you, the number of pets might jump from 6-8 to 12-14. Let’s face it – bathing and drying dogs takes time! If a shop has a good bather/prepper, you can easily groom more pets in a day.
The type of trim combined with the sizes of dogs being done will make a huge difference in how many pets can be done each day. A #7F All on a six-week regular Shih Tzu is much different from a longer guard comb trim with stylized scissored legs. What happens if you increase the size of the dog? Larger dogs simply take much more time. To me, a Doodle is the equivalent of two or three smaller dogs, depending on the type of haircut it is getting.
For many pet professionals, WHY you groom pets will also influence how many dogs you groom in a day. One of the amazing things about our industry is we all love dogs. There are those who really enjoy taking their time with the grooming process and will groom fewer pets. There are those who will try to help as many pets as they can in a single day. Others enjoy the creativity. Some enjoy the flexibility the career offers while others are motivated by the career opportunities. There are also groomers that simply enjoy earning a living by doing something they love.
How many dogs should you groom each day? There are lots of gray areas so there is no right answer. Whatever your motivation, no matter how many dogs you groom each day, the most important thing should always be the health and safety of the pets entrusted to you.
In my experience, the hardest part of running a business is STAFF!
Hands down the most challenging part of running a business is staffing it. Managing staff. Keeping staff. Paying staff. Keeping them accountable. Keeping them productive. Keeping them happy.
And the real biggie – training them.
So let’s tackle the training challenge first. It’s far easier to hire basic labor than filling a position that requires skill. At our kennel, the Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa, we have an endless supply of dog enthusiasts that want to work in the kennel. With multiple colleges within our community, the labor force is easy to come by. After all, everybody wants to play with puppies!
But what about those jobs that require skilled labor? People like receptionists, bathers, managers, and trainers.
One of the largest reasons I started the Paragon School of Pet Grooming was because I could not find qualified groomers to operate my fleet of mobile grooming vans. They just weren’t available. I still shudder when I think about it. There were times that I would have a van down for 6 to 12 months at a time before I could find somebody that could do the job. Not a very efficient way to run a business.
Working every day in a mobile grooming salon does not lend itself well to a training environment. It can work if you just have to add polish to a skilled professional. But to take them from scratch? Nope. It doesn’t work. You just can’t afford the time it takes to train a new groomer – especially if you rely on YOUR productivity to pay the bills. Starting a person from scratch to become a competent groomer in a mobile just does not work!
To get a groomer that can work independently – with safety and quality – will take months, not weeks, to train. After all, this is not a skill that you can quickly show somebody how to do. Grooming is not a simple task. It requires significant training.
I’ve heard some businesses offer two-week training programs for new hires. Then they turn them loose to groom “professionally.” Some circles might consider this enough, but for quality and safety, you need more.
Did you know the average person needs to see or hear something 3 to 7 times before it actually sinks in? And that’s for an average learner. Sure, star performers might pick it up after the first or second try – but those people are few and far between. Most of us fall in the average category. We have to see or do the same task repeatedly before we do it correctly.
I’ve been in the pet care industry for over 30 years – primarily in the grooming aspect of the industry. Finding qualified groomers remains the number one problem in our field.
Finding talented grooming help was close to impossible was when I first stepped up to the grooming table in 1979 – and it remains the same problem today. I have chosen to focus on this critical problem. I own multiple companies in the pet industry. On the educational side, my companies aid in training and personal development for those stepping into the field for the first time as well as for aspiring pet groomers and stylists.
It has always been extremely easy to enter the field of pet grooming. There are very few regulations of any sort. Anybody can start bathing and cutting hair off a dog or cat, and call themselves a professional pet groomer. Those of us that have spent years perfecting our craft know it takes time and dedication to become confident and competent in all breed grooming. It takes years of practice and study.
Some of the ways that I have found to become a real professional include:
Even graduates coming out of quality grooming schools are not truly proficient. If they have graduated with above average GPA’s, they have given themselves a great foundation. It is the starting point of their career – but they are far from being a polished professional. They still need guidance. They still need coaching. They still need mentoring. They still need to study. And most of all – they need to practice A LOT!
So let’s get back to that hiring challenge. If you’re faced with having to hire a groomer, know what to look for. One thing I recommend is Attitude. Attitude. Attitude. I always look for somebody who’s got a positive, upbeat attitude. Someone who is receptive to new information. They need to be moldable. Adaptable. And they cannot be afraid of hard work. I hire on potential, not necessarily experience.
Once you have someone with a great attitude, helping them be best they can be is fun – and it can be very gratifying. Use the resources available to help them self-direct their own learning. It will take time, dedication, and patience before you see your new hire flourish but you can lighten your training load by taking advantage of many educational resources currently available. You might learn a thing or two yourself.
It amazes me that our industry has not advanced more in this area. Sure, there are more grooming schools than ever was before. Yes, there are certification organizations out there – but they’re still voluntary. Licensing, in some states is starting to catch on. However, we’re still a long way from having even a basic comprehensive licensing program in place for pet groomers and salon owners. The road before us is wide open with possibilities.
Will you help us blaze the trail?
This isn’t only your busiest season, it’s also the end of the year. It can make or break your earning goals. Will you finish off 2016 with a bang? Will your books be full for January and February of next year?
I love this time year. It forces us to be on top of our game. To be organized. To be ready. To have our days planned. To keep our communications clear with fellow team members and our customers. To know our limitations.
Let’s not forget what the real reason of the holidays is: to spend time with your family and friends. Sure, we want to be there for our customers but not at the expense of our family and close friends.
Back at the height of my mobile grooming business, I lost sight of this. I, along with most of my team, were booked the gills. I often joked if my clients didn’t tip me in cookies and nuts, I would’ve forgotten to eat altogether during this time of year.
My work day would typically start at 5 o’clock in the morning. It would start by preparing all the client’s holiday gift bags for my team of stylists. By 8 o’clock in the morning I was at my first stop. I would typically groom seven, eight, or even nine dogs a day in my mobile unit. This was before the age of generators. With each stop, I had to plug in. What a pain! Those chords were long, heavy, and cold on your hands! Running out of water was a real concern, too. After all, it was Michigan. The temperatures were plummeting below the freezing zone. Many times I would not get back to base until well after 9 o’clock at night. By the time December 24 rolled around I was so exhausted all I could do was fall into bed. One year I totally missed all Christmas Eve activities as well as most of Christmas morning.
That was the year I came to my senses. I love to be busy. I also love to take care my customers. But I had pushed myself too hard. I learned that year how take control of my schedule, to create a plan, and how to use the word “No.”
Here are the few of the things I did to reclaim my sanity so I could enjoy the holiday season with my friends and family.
1. Blocked out time for myself. Long before the holidays arrived, I blocked out times for myself and family events. Holiday parties. Holiday shopping. I made sure I had enough me time scheduled so that I could be at the top of my game for both my customers and my family.
2. Maintained a healthy diet. Seriously – we cannot survive on cookies alone – although I have tried! After a long day standing at a grooming table – who wants to spend time cooking! Long before the holidays hit, I would prepare healthy dinners and freeze them in individual portions. I learned my crockpot was my friend. For breakfast and lunches, I made sure I had plenty of healthy items that I could just grab. Cut up fruits and vegetables. Lean proteins. Water. Today, with Pinterest – there are plenty of ideas of how to put this together. And when all else failed, a collection of my favorite restaurants I could call for takeout as I drove back to base.
3. Stockpiled supplies. As we went into the holiday season, I made sure that we were well stocked. Shampoo. Conditioner. Specialty shampoos. Paper towel. Laundry soap. Cotton balls. Quick stop. Kool Lube. We were very proactive with our ordering activities to ensure we had everything we needed and would not run out.
4. Maintained my mobile unit/salon. The last thing any of us need is a hiccup with our equipment during our peak season. With our vans, I made sure everything was serviced prior to the onslaught of the holiday season. Oil changes. Brake jobs. Maintenance to the interior workings of the units. Replaced old or tired equipment. I carried this pre-maintenance over to my salon, as well.
5. Premade bows. I am a bow girl. I love their creativity and the sparkle they add to the finished grooming job. It’s like icing on the cake. During the holiday season, our most festive bows were all premade. Glitter bows. Sparkle bows. Pom-pom bows. Tulle bows. Beaded bows. Ribbon insert bows. I hated taking the time to make them on-the-fly. All our special holiday bows were made well in advance. I would choose the bows myself based on what I saw in the client’s home or I would let the client select their own bows in the salons.
6. Focus. Focus. Focus. When grooming, I used every speed trick in the book. Prepping. Bathing. Drying. Trimming. Wherever I was, in an instant, I could see a clock. I paid attention to minutes – not hours. I would set mental time goals on every single step of the grooming process and fight to stick to them.
7. List keeper. I love lists. Once it’s on paper I can get it out of my mind. My lists allow me to remember the finer details and stay on track. There’s great gratification in crossing things off a list. When it comes to holidays, I have master lists for everything. Shopping lists. Cleaning lists. Gift giving list. To do lists. Decorating lists. If it is something you must think about each year, consider building a master list for the task. I have a folder on my computer called organizational templates. I store all my master lists in that single spot.
8. Took care of my best customers first. I started pre-booking my most regular customers starting in September. I would start with my weekly and biweekly customers. Once they had their appointments locked in, then I would move to the three-week and four-week clients. I would finish off the pre-booking with my five and six-week clients. Typically, by that point, there was very few openings left in my schedule.
9. Pre-booked appointments. Traditionally, January and February in the northern climates can be somewhat slow for most grooming salons. Pre-booking is so important this time a year. By taking advantage of the high traffic in November and December, it’s easy to pre-book January and February 2017. Smart pre-booking can increase your income without adding a single new client.
10. Took the week off between Christmas and New Year’s. For my businesses, which are strictly grooming-related, I always reserved that week to regroup. To rest. To allow myself some “me” time. Some years the entire team would take the week off. Other years we would take a more relaxed approach to work by not grooming any pets. After all, most of your clients have already been groomed. We would take that time to address special projects needing to be done in the business. Deep clean. Paint. Replace worn and tired equipment. By the time January 2 rolled around, we were all refreshed and ready to begin a new year.
At one point my life, I dreaded the holiday season. The demands of my grooming services and my time made it so that I couldn’t enjoy this time of year. Once I reclaimed my time – my life – the holidays once again became that special time of year.
With a little forethought, you can set the stage. You will be able to generate the maximum amount of income from your busiest time of the year without losing your sanity.
Do you have suggestions for having the best holiday season? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.