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