Hi fellow stylists!
On this cold winter Sunday in Tennessee with snow on the ground, a blanket , some fuzzy slippers, and a good hot cup of coffee is just the exhale I needed .....ahhh.....now back to work!
We all would like to THINK that we are the "Best" at what we do. Are YOU?
There was a quote from a very famous, and even more infamously, a very successful man, that once I read it, stuck with me from that moment on. I have tried to live my grooming life , and any professional endeavors , by that quote. He stated :
""Do what you do so well - and so uniquely - that people
can't resist telling others about you."
- Walt Disney "
My freinds, THAT is the key to success in any endeavor in your life.
We all know, or should know, that word of mouth is 80-90 percent of building our clientele in this industry, as in most service oriented businesses. So, in this economy, we should strive to offer the most thorough, professional, "correct", services . If you are new to grooming, this most importantly includes you. In the first five years, yes I said five, that is your main time frame to become confident in your skills, during this time, you will gather all the knowledge that you can, and empliment it into your daily practices, But, are you gathering the "right" information?
I have, over my twenty five years as a groomer, come across a lot of incorrect information out there. If you are new to this industry , you may not know just what information IS correct. Most new groomers are like little sponges soaking up any little tidbit from anywhere. With that said, you are in the right place if you are reading this, nooo, not my blog, but, PetGroomer.com. All of the bloggers on this site are reputable sources of information, and the message boards are another wealth in and of themselves. Looking at the competition pictures will give you an 'idea" of correct breed profiles. Most of us who are veterans of this industry know that we must pass our knowledge on to the up and coming to keep the integrity we have all worked so hard to build. Therefore,if asked, or, if they are like me, will just give the information, because it was "given" to us. You will never learn though if you don't ASK, that IS the first step. Ok, Kim now steps down off soapbox.
Back to the original subject. Becoming THE MOST IN DEMAND STYLIST IN YOUR AREA.
How do you do this? Well, it begins with educating yourself. Constantly. Secondly, you must Practice all that you learn, every single day on every single pet.
It is my personal belief, that you must be a , what I call, "Corrective" stylist. By this I mean, if you "Know" the basic structural faults of dogs. (notice I did not say breeds, although that is just as important)
Become familiar with the pictorial in the back of the AKC book (which should be a bible to you ) of , fronts , rears, tails, earsets, feet etc.............. Then, you will need to seek out the information that appeals to your style of learning that teaches you how to "hide" these flaws in pets (if it is not a part of the breed standard for the pet to be built like the example on your table) to make them appear balanced and more eye appealing. The reason I say " your style of learning" , is that we all learn differently, we all, as individuals, absorb and interpret information differently. I , personally, am a visual learner. If you show me, I can do it. On paper though, I absorb the information much slower. For instance, when I was trying to learn how to groom a Bichon correctly for competition, I would read the books, look at pictures, try to groom my dog, go to a show, place third, or not at all, and repeat. It was not until, the facility I worked for hosted a seminar for the area groomers, by Christine Pawlosky (one of my grooming idols), that I had my "ahh hahhh" moment with my endeavors to learn how to groom a Bichon. She taught just slightly differently than anyone else, just a few words differently, and bam....my next show, I took "B Div" Best In Show with my Bichon.
(To solidify my theory of practicing daily with what you learn, I came back the next year, the same show, and won Best In Show "A" Div.Practice practice practice!!!!! )
When seeking out this information, you still need to make sure that you are learning the "correct" information. There are many of my grooming veteran colleagues who have videos, and books, and seminars out. I don't think one is better than the other, I simply think that they each teach differently in thier wording and gestures. My best advice, to help you decide, is go to one of thier seminars , or watch a clip of thier videos. See if it appeals to "your" learning style.
Once you have the tools, it's up to YOU to drive yourself each and every day to , schedule yourself so that you have the time to work on each pet, and implement all that you learn. It is only with practice that we get better. Athletes don't take months off, they train year round. They have points of frustration that they have to push through, certain obsticles in aspects of thier sport that they must overcome to be a well rounded athlete. They get frustrated,but, the difference is that they turn that frustration and anger into a positive drive to learn and grow. No one starts out the best. They grow into it. By doing what? Having a passion for what they do, Being open to learn, adaptable to change, and persistent perserverence to overcome and conquer obsticles. We all possess the quality to learn, therefore, we all have the potential to be the best. How bad do you want it? How bad do you need it? How bad do you need that consistent income without worry of dry spells? Do you want to not worry that your clients may find someone else better? I never worry, because I know without a doubt, that if I for some reason, can't fit them in, they may go somewhere else one time due to convienience, but, they WILL be back, because they can't get my kind of service any where else in town. That may sound concieted, or cocky, but, I am confident because I have invested in myself over the years, I have taken the time to learn and grow, and you know what? I still take the time to learn and grow, and I stay open to change within my industry. I try new techniques, I try new equiptment, I keep my tools sharp, both my mental tools and my mechanical ones. If you stop learning, you stop growing. The moment you think you know all there is, is the moment you lose.
So, how to be unique? Start by offering the best service, as well as, to offer services they can't get anywhere else in the area. We are more than just dog groomers, we are caretakers who are entrusted with treasured family members care. We see pets, on average, four times more in a year than thier veterinarian does. Be the eyes and ears of the vet, LEARN skin and coat, KNOW IT.....Take your services to the next level, once you know skin and coat, learn what products work the best for each skin condition and coat type. Invest in the best products. Learn proper drying techniques for each coat type, proper drying for the technique of grooming you are performing is crucial to it's final outcome. Buy the best equiptment to help you achieve these results in the optimum amount of time. Improve upon your finishing techniques such as scissor finishing and handstripping. Buy THE best scissors and stripping knives . It will make all the difference in the world in not only your finished product, but, your time saving properties as well. You may have a budget, and can't afford to upgrade all of this at once, and that's ok. You have to start somewhere though , even if it's piece by piece, product by product , seminar by seminar ,so be it then, just know in time it will all come together. It won't if all you do is think about it though. You must keep your eye on the bigger picture.
~ The best intention doesn't mean a thing if no action is taken on the intention.~
Once your clients SEE the difference in thier pets they will come back not just with that pet, for the rest of it's life, but, with all thier pet grooming needs in the future as well. They will tell all thier friends, family , and co-workers about you. When people walk thier dogs, they are in essence walking a billboard for your business too! Make sure it is an eyecatching billboard! Think about what catches your eye in advertising..... Only the best , right? What works , right? Some billboards that catch our eye are the most colorful ones. With that said, impliment color enhancing services into your service menu. Do a few pets for free for your best clients, not only to impress them but to take pictures of the before and after affect to display in your lobby. Most people don't like to see the obvious signs of thier pet aging, just as we don't like to see the aging process in ourselves.
We have to remember too, especially in this economy, people shop for practical purposes, that becomes the priority over frivilous spending. So, if you have retail, you might want to adjust your stock to lean towards more practical shopping, things they can "use" to help keep thier pet healthy to avoid vet bills, or dematt fees and such. Teach them how to use what they are buying, become an educating salesperson, or, if you have a staff that handles check in's or check outs, teach them to become educating sales people. This may be an area you can gain an edge on your local competition as well. To adjust your retail to what the general buying population is thinking at the moment with concerns of spending thier hard earned dollars.
Another area is, don't go cheap on the finishing touches. Seek out the best bows to buy, or better yet, learn how to make them! I make my own bows, and have lots of fun dressing them up with jewels or little characters in the centers. There are books out there within this industry to teach that too!...If you have kids, get them involved in helping with it, Or, if you just don't have the time, buy the best ...(there are advertisements in trade magazines as well as on petgroomer.com in the classifieds)..it will pay off in the end.
A lot of times, we don't have the magic wand needed to make a pet with poor genetics look like a magazine cover for Dog World. But, we can dress them up! You will be amazed at how this impresses your clients. Finishing touches in our industry are the same importance as an adornment on a packaged present. If you have a package wrapped professionally, the adornment gives it that "wow" factor.
With confidence in your services, that they are the best, most thorough, with the finest finishing touches, you can offer them a guarantee. We all like to hear it when we have any service performed to ourselves such as hairstyling, manicure, or, to our homes, clothes cleaning, repairs Right? ......"If you are not fully satisfied,just return within a specified amount of time for an adjustment ".......I personally offer a 3 day guarantee, I feel it's plenty of time to get the pet home look them over, watch them move, see the practicality of the groom....does it still drag in leaves? Are the ears still getting soaked when the pet drinks , is food still getting hung up in the beard ?....I tell them to at least call within those 3 days and we will get them back in for an adjustment.....When people hear that, upon picking up thier pet, it's such a reassurance to them that they are recieving the best , that you are confident in what you do, and , most importantly that you care about them as a client, and keeping thier business.
I call all new clients 48 hours later , saying something like : " Hi Mr/Mrs/ so and so.... This is -------- from ----------- pet styling services, I was just checking to make sure that you are completely satisfied with -----------'s styling service." If I have to leave a message,I leave them the message as stated above with the opportunity to call back with any questions or concerns, re-itterating the guarantee period . (about every six months it's a good idea to poll all those new clients that have been in within the last six months with a small questionare about thier satisfaction, include questions about " friendliness/helpfulness of staff, quality of service, timeliness, and appointment accomodation time" I also give a small dollar amount discount to those who either mail back the survey, or bring it to me on thier next visit. This ensures you get your feedback!..)
This may seem like a lot, but, it is all of this combined and even more that I haven't mentioned, that sets you apart from the competition.
You may not ever compete in a grooming competition, and that's ok........but, know this, that you are still competing, every day, for the business in your area. You are competing against the other stylists for business, and for your own survival in this distressed economy.
Happy Grooming!! Kim