Do you struggle to get the spindly legs smooth of that clipped #5 all trim? The body comes out nice and smooth - but the legs... ugh.
Getting smooth legs is always a pesky problem for new groomers. Maybe you've been grooming for a while, but still struggle with this area. You're not alone. Legs should only take you a few minutes to get smooth. If you're missing the mark, here's some help.
3 passes and you're done. Period.
Fast. Clean. Simple.Your end result should be super smooth. No rough spots. No sticky-outies.
Legs have their own sets of challenges. One of the largest issues is simply the shape. When you set a clipper blade on one of those spindly legs, the point of contact is minimal. Look at it on your own finger, simulating a leg. You're only making contact with one or two teeth. You're going to have to rapidly go over those legs several times if you have any hope of getting them smooth.
I have some ideas for how to get a nice finish on those legs in no time. It's easy when you understand the principles and the foundation skills of all good clipper work.
1. Don't skimp on the prep.
An excellent bath and a quick high velocity blow dry can make a world of difference in your finish - even on #10 or #7 all over trim. If they have six weeks or less of coat, get them into the tub right away. It won't take you any more time to bathe and blow them dry and you will get a superior finish.
If the dog has more than six weeks growth, quickly knock off the bulk of the coat. Don't worry about getting it smooth or neat at this point. Just remove the bulk of the coat as fast as you can. You don't need to be bathing and drying all of that extra hair. Once the bulk of the fur is removed, head to the bathtub. Follow up with a quick high velocity dry to get the coat to stand up and away from the dog's body.
If the dog will not tolerate a high velocity dryer, don't worry. Just make sure they are thoroughly towel-dried. Give the pooch a light mist with a coat amplifying product or hairspray. Use a soft slicker brush to back brush and work the product into the coat while it is still damp. Let them air dry in a comfortable environment until they are dry and ready for finish trimming. Keep in mind this is a very short haircut and fluff drying is not really necessary.
There is an order that you need to work over the legs to be efficient. Start from the top and work down to the toes.
2. Know your holds.
Whenever you are working on legs, always keep them as low to the table as possible. The higher you lift the leg, the more uncomfortable the pet is going to become. As they become uncomfortable - they struggle. They nip. They whine. They squeal.
You need to be absolutely clear on whether you're honestly hurting the pet or if they're just being difficult. If you do not lift the leg more than an inch or two off the table, more than likely, they are just being difficult. Proceed in a calm, cool, and collected manner.
To get the top of the legs, hold onto the toes. I place my finger into the crevices of the foot pad. Then I press down between the digits so only skin is trapped between my fingers. Then I have a good hold so that I can maneuver the leg low to the table but I can get clearance all the way around.
If you're holding them correctly, and they still struggle, simply maintain your hold. Anchor the heel of your hand on the table while you're still holding onto the toes. Let the pet lightly resist your hold. After a few tries, and you don't let go, most dogs stop pulling. You have gently and quietly taught them to hold still for the clipping procedure. Yeah! Minor victory for you! Be sure to give them praise when they do well and begin to respond positively.
For the toes, it's a little trickier. For the front legs grasp the top of the leg above the elbow joint, then gently squeeze with your thumb and first finger. This hold will also offer stability as your hands rest in the armpit area. As you squeeze you will notice the dog will literally point its paw. This will give you enough rigidity in the pastern joint to run the clipper smoothly over the foot area, getting a smooth cut.
On the back legs, you're going to slide your hand underneath the dog's thigh. Stretch your fingers so that they can sit just above the ischium joint (point of buttocks) and the stifle joint. With the leg slightly off the table top, squeeze gently. Just like on the front, the joint will become stiff and the dog will point its toe. This will give you the firmness you need to work the clipper over the foot area.
No matter what blade you use, it is important to maintain a consistent degree of tip to the clipper blade. This is also known as "keeping the blade up on it's cutting edge." Imagine a pencil being held right under the blade as you guide it down the leg. The closer the pencil is to the teeth, the higher the tip angle. The further back you keep the imaginary pencil, lesser of the degree of tip. Generally speaking, the closer the blade cuts, the higher you need to tip the blade for it to be effective.
3. Tip of the clipper.
Equally important is the amount of pressure placed on the blade. The perfect pressure is the weight of the clipper. Let gravity do the work. When you get in those awkward positions, you will need to simulate the same amount of pressure as your work on the sides and under the dog. Use your own arm to teach you how to gauge the pressure while maintaining consistent pressure as you would maneuver around the dog.
4. Don't forget to brush.
It's important to back brush. On the shorter trims, a softer brush is generally your best choice. Back brushing is done with the slicker brush while brushing the coat against the grain. The pressure on the brush should be very light. Use the entire pad of the brush, making gentle contact with the skin and coat. Keep the pressure soft on the brush so the skin is not scraped, causing a potential "brush burn." Back brush the entire leg once. Then make multiple clipper passes using effective techniques. Once the bulk of the coat is gone, repeat the process a second time to get a smoother finish. On the third back brush pass, there should only be high spots or uneven areas left to get with the clippers.
5. The final detail finish.
Once you have back brushed and clipped the legs three times there should be very little coat left, but there are always a few pesky strays that pop out.
This is the time to pull out a nice pair a blending shears. For this type of detail work, I prefer a finer toothed blender or thinning shear. I always opt for blenders over normal shears for safety reasons. I rarely opt for a smooth bladed shear. The risk of injury is just too great. A blending or a thinning shear is a much safer option to get those final stray hairs you just couldn't pick up with the clipper.
As a professional pet groomer or stylist, you always want the dog to look its best. Uneven haircuts do not reflect positively on a professional salon. You must be able to do a significantly better job than the dog's owners could do themselves.
Dealing with all four legs on small to medium-sized pets should not take more than 1 to 3 minutes per leg to complete the bulk of the clipper work. Never forget, as much as we love our jobs, time is money. You want to become as efficient as possible.
Pay attention to the details. There's a difference between a good #7 All and a bad #7 All. If you want your clients to return - you need to pay attention to the details. These low maintenance style trims are the bread-and-butter of many professional grooming salons. Getting those low maintenance haircuts super-smooth in the least amount of time possible is the key to a successful salon.
t’s hard to believe, but the major holidays are just around the corner. What does your appointment book look like? Are you booked out until after the holidays?
If you are, CONGRATULATIONS! Give yourself a huge pat on the back. Being proactive with your schedule feels great, doesn’t it?
If you’re still trying to fill holes in your schedule, there’s a question I’d like to ask.
Do you know who your most valuable clients are? Whether you are a solo flyer or work with a team, you can benefit from knowing what type of client brings in the most revenue.
When it comes to the busy holiday season, knowing how to prioritize appointments can be very helpful. As much as we would like to get to every client, there are only so many hours in a day. It can be hard to decide who gets appointments and who gets turned away.
This chart might help you determine who your most valuable clients are. Typically, it’s not the client paying the most money per groom.
Look at the revenue generation on the one, two, and three-week clients. Even with heavily reduced grooming fees, it’s amazing how $20 can add up week after week!
I’m not saying this is what you should be charging for your dogs. I’m just giving you an example. You can see how the numbers works out. Test the numbers using your own pricing averages.
Quote In A CircleOne of my companies automatically gives a five-dollar discount for clients that book every 4 to 6 weeks. Once they get under three weeks, the discount is even bigger. This is great for keeping the books full – and the dogs stay in good condition all year long.
It’s pretty amazing once you see the math, right? Hopefully, it gives you clarity on who should get those premier appointments spots.
Let me ask you this: is it fair to either the client – or to you – to take an eight-week client over someone you see every four weeks? What about a four-week client over a weekly client? Ultimately, the choice is yours, but I know who I’d pick!
When booking appointments, start with the clients you see most often. Reward their loyalty with the best appointment slots.
Take care of your weekly and biweekly clients first. Then move into your three-week clients. If they don’t have appointments, reach out to them in whatever method works best for your business – call, text, or email. With any luck, the last two appointment days before the major holiday(s) will filled with your regulars. Those days will be a breeze for you.
Once those clients are taken care of, start booking your four-week clients and continue down the line. By the time you’re done, you’ll know you’ve taken care of your most valuable clients in a way that is both systematic and fair. If you still have slots available, go ahead and fill them in as the phone rings.
If you are using this system to book six month to a year out, make sure you communicate with your clients. They should know when you’re unavailable due to vacations, family obligations, educational events, or peak grooming times. Helpfully offer them alternatives so their pets stay in excellent condition. You may need to be more flexible on times or even offer to have a substitute stylist when you are not available.
The holidays are always a blur! If you’re overworked, underappreciated, and totally worn out for your close friends and family you won’t enjoy the holidays. You need to make the time for yourself and those you love. I can still hear the disappointment in my mother’s voice when I was so exhausted from grooming, I could not make it to our traditional Christmas Eve family gathering.
This prioritizing system helped immensely. Being a little more organized and proactive meant I could take care of my best clients and still have the energy to enjoy the holidays with my family.
Don’t limit yourself – you can use the system to fill your books all year round. Ultimately, it depends on how in demand you are and how busy your schedule is.
Whatever way you implement the system, it’s a great way to take care of your best customers. Take care of them and they’ll take care of you. Most importantly, you’ll both be taking the best care of the pets you love.
When I first started working with dogs, I worked with a groomer who didn't have a lot of patience with them. Dogs danced. They panted and drooled. They sat down - a lot. They growled, pulled, snapped, and bit. The groomer was constantly struggling. It did not take long before I began to think most dogs were naughty on the grooming table.
Eventually, the groomer moved on and I got a promotion. I went from being a kennel worker to grooming. It was not an advancement I was looking forward to.
I came from a horse background. The better I understood the behavior and psychology of horses, the stronger horsewoman I became. The horses I worked with became my partners. We were a team. When you're dealing with large animals, that's exactly what you want.
I quickly applied this concept to the dogs I was working with every day. Sure, I had to learn the haircuts. More importantly, I had to learn how to win their trust and cooperation. I needed to get inside the mind of a dog.
This idea was confirmed when I went to a large dog show in Chicago. I was working on learning how to identify breeds and learn their haircuts. There was a special bonus about attending the show. Barbara Woodhouse, a world-renowned UK dog trainer, was there. She was going to be working with some difficult dogs. It was one of her specialties.
I remember sitting in the audience looking down onto the floor of the auditorium. She was working with an Afghan Hound in full coat. She had a light show lead on the dog but the dog would not walk. It had to be carried to the center of the arena. When the dog was set down, it curled up in a small ball, trying to become invisible. It was clearly terrified.
Barbara Woodhouse approached the dog with confidence. She bent over the dog and soothed it with long methodical strokes to its head and ears while speaking in a very calming sing-song type voice. Even from a distance, I could see the dog starting to relax.
Within moments, she coaxed the dog into a standing position. However, it was evident the dog was still very scared.
Mrs. Woodhouse continued in her sing-song voice, explaining what she was doing while giving reassurance to the dog. She gently and methodically moved her hands over the dog's body. The Afghan was slowly starting to relax. It's topline leveled out. Its head started to come up. As she got towards the rear of the dog, she let her hand slide to the inside of the thigh and gently stroked the inside of the leg.
The dog gave a yawn and then a shake. She softly praised the behavior. The dog's tail came up as it looked to Mrs. Woodhouse for direction. With that, she asked the dog to move forward. It did. Within moments she had the dog fully gaiting on a show lead around the arena. It was amazing.
I will never forget how she was able to gently and confidently work the dog out of its fear in just minutes.
I thought to myself, if Barbara Woodhouse could have such a quick and positive effect on this dog, I needed to learn how to have the same effect.
When I first started grooming, many dogs coming into the salon lacked confidence. They were uncooperative. They struggled. I needed to win their trust. Watching Barbara Woodhouse taught me handling was a learnable skill I needed to master.
I became fascinated with dog behavior, psychology, canine body language, and natural dog training. I read training books by Barbara Woodhouse and Carol Lea Benjamin. I studied canine behavior and psychology. I spent hours watching dogs naturally interact with one another and with humans. I thoroughly enjoyed learning how to use Tellington TTouch® develop by Linda Tellington-Jones. TTouch influences animals in a way that develops trust, and helps forms a harmonious bond between the pet and the person. It can also have a positive effect toward changing unwanted behavior.
Before long, I had very few difficult dogs to work with. Dogs who had been challenging to handle were becoming calm and cooperative. As I gained more experience, it took only moments to gain the trust and respect of my four-legged clients.
Here are a 15 of my favorite handling thoughts and practices:
1. Dogs are hardwired to think like dogs.
2. Dogs live in the present.
3. Dog take their clues from their handler, so set limitations, rules, and boundaries immediately.
4. The canine species is a pack animal - dogs need to accept and respect us as the pack leader.
5. The word NO is one of the most overused words in the dog's home environment - use a different sound or word to indicate undesirable behavior.
6. Never work on a pet you feel is dangerous to itself or to you.
7. Always maintain the 3 C's: Calm - Cool - Collected.
8. Dogs are silent communicators and are highly responsive to your energy.
9. Never take an unfamiliar pet directly from the owner's arms.
10. Always maintain some form of physical control - properly adjusted leads or safety loops.
11. Be a life-long learner of canine psychology and body language.
12. Not all pets are candidates for all professional grooming settings.
13. Humanity always comes before vanity.
14. If the eyes glow red or green - don't groom the dog.
15. Your hands are your livelihood - always protect them.
Personal self-confidence stems from education and experience. Continue to learn new ways to communicate with the pets you handle. The more self-confidence you have, the more successfully you will work with animals.
Never put a dog in danger. Always use respectful but effective handling methods. Do not let your emotions get the best of you. Don't let frustration get in the way.
Always know how your equipment performs and what can happen if you do not use it properly. You need to establish yourself as a pack leader but never at the expense of the dog.
For most of us, grooming dogs is a dream come true. However, every job has its challenges, including grooming. Not every dog loves the grooming process. Most dogs, when skillfully handled with respect, can be groomed with minimal stress to both the pet and the groomer.
Pick trainers you admire and follow them. Study the natural body language of dogs. Learn as much as you can about canine behavior and psychology.
The better you can communicate with the pet you're working on, the less stressful your job is going to be. Most people who have been in the business for a long time have mastered the art of canine (and/or feline) communications. It doesn't matter whether they are working on a regular client or one they only see a few times a year. Rarely do they have difficult or naughty dogs on the grooming table.
It does not mean experienced groomers don't get challenging pets. They do. They just have the skills to handle that pet more effectively than someone with fewer handling skills. If they have a consistently full appointment book, they have the option to make choices in their clientele. Whether they continue to work with a difficult pet or refuse it in the future is totally theirs.
Experienced pet stylists set the rules, limitations, and boundaries automatically - many times without ever saying a word. Even if they do have issues, they know how to effectively deal with problem pets in a safe and gentle manner. Do you know their secrets?
Rebooking clients is one of the easiest ways for groomers and pet stylists to boost their income. Encouraging clients to rebook on the day of their service will help keep a steady stream of pets coming into your salon.
Clients that rebook before they leave return on a much more frequent basis than those who do not. Let's face it - life gets busy. Personally, if I did not rebook my own hair appointment before I left the beauty salon, I'd be there a lot less frequently than every five or six weeks! Our pet owning clients are no different.
Many groomers don't encourage their customers to rebook their pet's next grooming. They think the client will come back when they are ready. While that may be true, it's more likely the client will not return as often as they should.
As a professional, it is up to us to educate our clients how often they should return based on:
• hygienic needs of the pet
• coat condition
• trim style
• activity level
• level of home maintenance between appointments
Most pets that are considered a part of the family require regular grooming. These owners share their lives, their homes, and sometimes even their beds with their four-legged family member. These pets benefit from weekly or bi-weekly bathing. Ideally, pets that require haircuts should be trimmed every 4 to 6 weeks. How often you handle hand stripped pets will vary based on the coat type and the technique used to strip out the dead coat. These dogs will need to be groomed weekly to a couple of times a year.
Pet professionals who understand the impact of rebooking realize that is not just a courtesy, it's an important business building strategy. Educate your clients about the rebooking process. Encourage them to set aside time to keep their pet's coat in peak condition.
Here are 4 Tips to Ensure Your Clients are Rebooking with Every Visit
- Stress Maintaining a Schedule - As a professional pet stylist, it's your job to educate your client. You know what it takes to keep their pet's coat in peak condition. Find out how the client would ideally like their dog to look and learn their budget. Talk to them about how much at-home care they are willing to do between grooming appointments. Discuss the lifestyle of the pet. Once you know the answers to those questions, you can suggest the ideal number of weeks the pet should go between professional grooming appointments.
- Suggest Dates - Don't just ask the client if they would like to rebook their next appointment. Suggest an ideal appointment date when you should see them again and have your calendar ready to set that appointment. If the client is hesitant, politely informing him that the best spots are already being filled can often help him make the decision to arrange for the appointment before he loses out to someone else.
- Offer an Incentive to Rebook - Small incentives can be a great way to keep clients coming back. Offer a small discount if they book their next visit within six weeks or less. Or offer them a free service with their pre-booked appointment. If they rebook weekly, bi-weekly, or every third week - offer them a special discounted rate to maintain the frequency of their visits. Do the math - you'll probably be shocked at how steeply you can discount a weekly or bi-weekly client on their regular grooming price and still make more money on an annual basis.
- Train Your Staff - Rebooking is a courtesy to the client - and a benefit to you. Make sure your entire team understands the importance. The key to success is to ask EVERY client to rebook their next appointment before they leave.
Having an appointment book that is 50% to 70% pre-booked is like money in the bank. It's a security system that allows you to breathe easily. It ensures you will not lose clients or revenue from light client bookings. It is one of the easiest ways to guarantee your income and keep your pet clients looking and feeling their best.
We all have different reasons why we love our careers. For most of us, our careers started because we were obsessed with dogs and cats. What a fabulous way to make money - doing something you enjoy. My guess is that many of you not only love animals, they're also a hobby and a huge part of your lives. I know very few career opportunities that allow pet lovers to work in a field they truly adore.
I love helping people who are passionate about their career choices. I always encourage people to seek out personal growth. To look at ways to do things better, more efficiently, and with greater focus. Raise the bar. Set personal goals. Set limits. Develop strategies. Ultimately, the pet, the individual, and the business wins.
If you are a solo stylist, you get to make up your own rules. Work at your own pace. There is very little pressure to move beyond your comfort zone.
However, if you work with a team, you will usually have quotas to meet and rules that you need to follow. The business sets up these boundaries in the best interest of the client, staff, and the long-term health of the company. If someone does not meet quotas, it creates a frustrating situation for the rest of the team in terms of time, quality, and financial stability.
Years ago when I ran a mobile operation, our minimum quota of grooms per day was six - or the equivalent of six. Thus, two slots were given for larger jobs such as Standard Poodles and heavy-coated Cockers. If someone had something very small on their roster, they were always given an option to groom another small dog. As long as the vans were routed well, this quota worked out well across the board for years.
There was one exception: Sue (not her real name).
Whenever I hired a new mobile stylist, I always started them with just four dogs and combined that with a very wide arrival schedule. All of our stylists knew this right from the get-go. The quota they needed to meet was six grooms per day. The funny thing about Sue was that she didn't care about the number of pets she groomed or the amount of money she made. Although she was passionate about animals and people, she did not groom because she needed the cash.
For a long time I was extremely frustrated with Sue's performance. She would arrive at base at eight o'clock in the morning to pick up her van. Many times she did not come back to base until well after eight o'clock at night. The most dogs I could ever get her to do was five.
It took me a while to realize the frustration was all mine. As a business owner, it's critical that I pay attention to the financial numbers - but there's a bigger picture: customer service.
When I looked at Sue's scheduled re-bookings, she could rarely take on a new client. Her clients absolutely loved her. She wasn't the fastest groomer. She wasn't a competition level stylist - never would be. Her grooms were basic, neat, and thorough. However, she was the most compassionate person I have ever hired. Not only did she enjoy the pets, she was passionate about her clients.
To Sue, her career was more than a means to a financial end, it was her social and entertainment outlet. I swear she had breakfast, lunch, and dinner with her clients. She ran errands for them. She shoveled their walks. She loved the senior citizens and the geriatric pets. She would talk with them for hours!
Hmmm. These were the clients my highly efficient stylists wanted to avoid like the plague. Once I came to terms with this concept, I ended up making it work in our favor.
I let Sue slide on the quota. She was dealing with all those clients the rest of my team would rather not do. By letting Sue focus on our more time-consuming clients (and enjoying it!), it allowed the rest of my team to focus on making quotas and/or exceeding them. It worked.
So even though I let Sue slide - only doing five grooms a day when the actual quota with six - it allowed the rest of my team to focus on grooming more pets. Not necessarily faster - just more efficiently.
There's a big difference between grooming efficiently and grooming fast. Grooming efficiently involves doing a good job. Grooming too fast, in my eyes, translates to sloppy work. When I look at developing a grooming team or training new staff members, I always look for people who have the ability to focus and work efficiently.
To me, being efficient means doing a great job in the least amount of time.
I recently heard one of our industry leaders say, "I don't know many wealthy groomers." I don't, either. I do know a lot of groomers and stylists that make a comfortable living and love their careers. Being able to work efficiently translates into creating larger client lists, larger paychecks, and the ability to breathe easily at the end of the day.
Unlike Sue, the majority of us have other responsibilities, outside interests, families to care for, and households to run. We may even have businesses to manage. Not to mention maintaining the health and well-being of both ourselves and the four-legged clients on the table. As much as we love our jobs, we can't afford to be tethered to a grooming table any longer than necessary.
When a student graduates from The Paragon School of Pet Grooming, I love to hear about their success stories down the road. They might work for someone else or work for themselves. They love what they're doing and their careers are thriving. But what makes those graduates successful?
For many of them, it might not be what you think.
We all have good friends. When you think about those friends, what traits draw you to them?
My good friends are honest, dependable, self-confident, empathetic, and are good listeners. They have integrity. I enjoy being around them.
Bottom line, I trust them.
Not every groomer needs to be an all-star stylist to succeed. However, having repeat clientele is the lifeblood of any business. It does not matter if you are a solo groomer or work with a team of pet stylists with a support staff. Getting customers to come back on a regular basis pays the bills.
We are not in the business of washing and styling pets. We are in the trust business. For many of the clients that we deal with on a regular basis, their pets are an extension of their family.
I'm not a parent but if I were, I would never leave my child anywhere I felt apprehensive about the facility, the people, or about any part of the service. Most of our clients feel the same way about their fur babies. If you are going to be successful, your clients need to trust you.
To be a successful pet groomer or stylist, you need to have repeat clientele. Repeat clients are attracted to the same types of characteristics as your good friends. When you get others to trust you, it's easier to grow your clientele and/or your business. It allows you to give all your clients and the pets exceptional service.
8 Traits That Build Long-Term Trust
Always tell the truth. Don't over estimate what you can do for the pet. Don't underestimate the risks. Tell the truth about how you see things. If you make a mistake or error, gracefully admit it. Explain what happened in ways other can understand. Take responsibility for the error and make it right.
Being honest does not mean you have the right to be rude. Framing your words in kindness and compassion does not minimize the message. Skillfully dealing with unpleasant or difficult situations will always get better results.
3. Be consistent in your behavior and the services you provide. Be someone others can depend on to give consistent grooming, timely service and personal attention.
Be tolerant. Be considerate of events and negative experiences that may have affected the clinet or the pet. Make exceptions to the rules when common sense dictates.
Confidence lends credibility. Demonstrate your knowledge in general conversation without taking down the client. If you honestly know your craft your confidence and know-how will shine through in a professional manner. You will be able to make sweift, skillful decisions based on the pet's condition, attitude and the clients wishes.
Communicate effectivelly. Whoever is asking the questions is in control of the conversation. Ask quesetions as to the client's lifestyle. Lead them down a road of realistic grooming options for the pet based on what you have heard. Listen to the client.
Having integrity means doing the right thing. It's an admirable personality trait. It means a person is ethical and is consistent in their actions.
Smile. Be friendly to both the client and the pet. Find something in common with your client or something you sincerely admire about their pet. Treat them with kindness, dignity and respect. Educate them in a warm and friendly manner when they need it.
Unfortunately, trust is fragile. If you lose it, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to restore it.
You can't fake a genuine relationship built on trust. The same characteristics that build a good friendship will build strong relationships with your clients and their pets.
Trust can take a long time to build. Yet it can take only a moment to weaken or disappear because of one senseless act. Without trust, you don't have a business - or a job.
Trust keeps clients coming back. Repeat clients keep your business healthy. Take the time to build trust and strengthen relationships with your customers - you'll be amazed at the result!
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.
• Level of grooming experience
• Work space setup
• Salon location
• Salon type
• Size of salon/mobile setup
• Working solo or with assistance
• Pet size
• Type of grooms - low maintenance, bath and brush, show trim styles
• Personal motivation
• Your personality
• Financial need
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.
When you attend trade shows and clinics, preparing in advance can help you make the most of this experience. Seminars are a great way to improve your skills and recharge your batteries. Meeting your mentors and soaking up their knowledge is a fantastic opportunity, and if you can see and hear them in action, it maximizes the experience. When you know what you need and what you hope to get out of the session, you can better prepare yourself to squeeze out as much as you can from your time together.
1. Step into the session with a very open mind.
If you are young and fresh to the industry, the amount of information that you get can be intimidating. Listen, take notes, and soak up every bit of knowledge that you can. Sometimes that may mean suspending what you know in order to make room for something new. Trying new techniques or ideas can be uncomfortable just because you've never tried it before. Keeping an open mind enables you to break from your routine to get different results. With time and practice, the awkwardness goes away and you become more efficient. Remember: having more tools, techniques, and knowledge allows you to have multiple approaches to a problem.
2. Make efficient use of the time available.
Many trainers at these sessions have limited time. They are often rushing from one obligation to another - judging competitions, speaking in seminars, or providing hands-on clinics. If they can, many will take the time to answer your questions. If you know what you need to ask, it helps you make the best use of the brief time you may have together. Be prepared - write down your questions in advance so you don't forget something important or stumble over your words. Being ready to participate in the learning experience helps you make the best use of the session - and the presenter will respect you for it.
3. Don't be nervous - plan ahead.
With so much to see and do at trade shows, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Break out the catalog and study the floor plan before you arrive. Map out your plan of attack to make sure you get to everything you need to see. Some shows have free apps you can download to help make the most out of your experience. Know the schedule of events so you don't miss that speaker you've been hoping to see. Sometimes it's good to go to shows like this with a friend - divide and conquer, then compare notes later.
As your knowledge and skills advance, the clinics won't be as daunting. They will become a great way for you to fine-tune your skills. You can begin to network and exchange thoughts with others in the industry who can provide insight when you need it. Plus, these types of functions are a great way to invigorate your career.
These principles remain valid for many forms of advanced learning in the pet grooming industry. Maybe you don't have the opportunity to do a hands-on training session. There is a wealth of information to learn from these all-star pet stylists. You might be in the audience at a trade show, pet grooming competition or watching a grooming video lesson featuring one of these top stylists. The better you can execute the core skills with your everyday grooming, the easier it will be to successfully transfer their lessons to your own grooming table.
If you are not as accomplished as these award-winning and highly successful pet groomers are - take note. You can learn a lot from their well-developed skills. Learning new skills, tips, and tricks make grooming pets all that more fun!
Learning to master skills helps us get ahead in our work and lives. To do this you need to have a deep understanding of the skill you are trying to perfect. You also need the dedication to put in the needed time and deliberate practice.
"Deliberate practice," was introduced by researcher, Anders Ericsson who studied this concept for over 30 years. His research shows HOW you practice matters much more than HOW MUCH you practice.
Deliberate practice isn't running a few miles each day, strumming a guitar for 20 minutes each morning, or grooming a few dogs each day.
Deliberate practice is much more purposeful and focused. It might take you five to ten years of deliberate practice to truly master a skill.
To improve anything, you must push beyond your comfort zone. This process can be very difficult. Letting go of what is safe and learning to get comfortable with the unknown is hard for most of us. For some, it is impossible. But when you put sincere effort toward improving a weakness, you will grow.
To become great, experts focus on improving their weaknesses. Practicing on easy things never leads to improvement. Working hard just to work will exhaust you. Working purposefully towards improving is the secret to success.
It doesn't matter whether you are trying to master a specific breed profile, specialize in a grooming technique, increase your speed, or skillfully run your business. To master any task, you need to focus and practice in a purposeful way.
Here are five ideas to help you stay focused on a skill you want to master.
1. Deliberate practice has one objective: to improve performance. According to Ericsson, "People who play tennis once a week for years don't get any better if they do the same thing each time. Deliberate practice is about changing your performance, setting new goals and straining yourself to reach a bit higher each time."
2. Perfect practice makes perfect. Repetition matters. Do it repeatedly. Football legends don't practice their specialty briefly at the end of their practice sessions. They repeat the fundamentals of their specialty hundreds of times each week.
3. Get consistent feedback. You must monitor your progress so you can adjust. Without feedback, you won't know how to improve. Seek out a mentor or a coach in the area you would like to master. Asked them for consistent criticism and advice.
4. Identify your weakest area. Focus on improving your weakest skill. Then move on. Don't beat yourself up.
5. Be prepared. The process is going to be challenging. It will physically and mentally exhaust you. Mastery takes commitment, focus, and extreme effort.
When I began a career with dogs, it didn't take long before I knew I wanted to perfect my skills. I wanted to master pet grooming. I found mentors and coaches who could give me feedback. I read books. I studied images - photos of my own work as well as champions. I intently watched master pet stylists at work. I attended clinics and workshops. I tested my skills in the certification and competition rings. I always asked for feedback and focused on improving my work. I practiced. And practiced. And practiced.
Today, I work with a business coach. Almost every week we have a 90-minute conference call. We focus on our weakest link and ways to improve it. The following week, we review what worked and what didn't work - then move on to the next weak item on the agenda. Having a coach keeps me accountable, focused, and on track.
Remember - start small. Self-improvement can feel overwhelming. You can't take on everything. If you do, you'll feel defeated and never succeed at any of it. Instead, choose one or two skills to focus on at a time. Break down the skill into manageable chunks. Set goals. Get feedback and track your progress.
Along the learning journey, stop to reflect. When you want to move from good... to great... to mastery, you need to stop and spend time reflecting on what you're doing. If you don't, the new skill won't stick. Talk to your mentor, coach, or someone you respect as you go. Talking about your progress assists in getting valuable feedback. It keeps you accountable and it cements the changes.
Be patient with yourself. You are not going to reach perfection right away. Mastery requires perfecting many smaller skills and then putting them all together. It could take months to perfect a single new sub-skill. It will take years to truly master a particular technique or specialize in a field.
You can use these techniques on anything you want to improve or master. Many of us can do something well. True mastery takes it to a much deeper level.
Do you have what it takes to become a master?
Unfortunately, there isn't an easy rule for solving the problems of tardy or no-show clients. The good news is that you have lots of options to help deal with it. Depending on how busy you are, cancellations can either be a blessing or a curse. In either case, if you have a client who is chronically dismissive or disrespectful of your time, you need to be proactive and correct the problem.
Our kennel, Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa, experienced 68 reservation cancellations over the 4th of July holiday. During the summer months, Whiskers runs at over 100% occupancy rate with its 180 rooms. During peak holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, and Spring Break, Whiskers charges a $50 deposit for all reservations. This deposit is nonrefundable if the cancellation takes place two weeks prior to their check-in date. In the past, the deposit has not been charged for Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Labor Day. That will be changing.
For years we've tracked grooming appointment cancellations at The Paragon School of Pet Grooming. Despite our continual efforts to knock the rate down, its remains a persistent 10%.
In the pet grooming industry, time is money. Clients who are chronically tardy or don't show up for their appointments create havoc for both your schedule and your pocketbook.
(However, if you are overbooked, it can also be a blessing.)
There is no perfect solution for this problem. Everyone has a slightly different take on this situation. Some salons run on a very tight schedule while others are more relaxed. And let's face it, there are times when the client has a legitimate excuse. So, what do you do?
8 Ways to deal with Tardy and No-show Clients.
- Call or text to confirm the day ahead. Sometimes clients just need is a gentle reminder to avoid a scheduling conflict.
- Breathe. For some pet stylists, having a cancellation is not a big deal. It doesn't happen that often. The clients are well-trained and respectful of their appointments and time. In some cases, it might even be a relief.
- Overbook. Service businesses do this all the time to ensure they are full. The key here is to have a variety of pets on the books. If there are a few easy jobs sprinkled between the more difficult ones, you will get through your day, even if your cancellation rate is below the 10% mark.
- If they are 10 or 15 minutes late - call them. If they can make it into the salon within a few minutes, keep the appointment. It's easier than trying to refill it - unless you don't want to! If you opt not to honor their appointment, rebook them for another time. Don't wait 30 or more minutes and then explode when they walk in the door expecting to keep their appointment. It's better to make the call right away and know what your next step should be. This method offers you more control over the situation. With some clients, you need to personally point out why it's important for you and/or your team to have set appointment times. This can be done in a friendly - yet firm - professional manner. This tactic also works well with non-chronic cancellations.
- Have a 3 Strike Rule. Some people are just forgetful. Others are just plain disrespectful. Others are downright rude. If the client will not respect your time, you don't have to continue to put up with it. Occasionally, there are solid reasons why someone misses an appointment. Life happens. The 3 Strike Rule covers clients who are chronically late or don't show up for their appointments. If you're going to set up a 3 Strike Rule, what are the consequences? Do you refuse to groom the dog in the future? Charge a cancellation fee? Do you have a client prepay a nonrefundable amount for the scheduled next appointment? If you make a rule, there must be consequences. Make a policy, then consistently stick with it.
- If the client cancels, fails to show up, or is tardy beyond being able to groom them at their appointed time, reschedule them. Don't do them a favor by squeezing them in the next day or two. Push them out at least two weeks. I've known many stylists that are so busy they have NO flexibility left in their schedules. If a client misses today's appointment they can't get another one until their next pre-scheduled appointment. This works exceptionally well for stylists that are booked out weeks, months, or even a year in advance. It can be a hard lesson for the client but it is generally very effective. Rarely do they miss another appointment.
- For clients who are chronically tardy or don't show up, charge a late or no-show fee. You won't always get it, but if they book another appointment, you can tack it on to their next grooming fee. You could also consider raising their base price to include an inconvenience fee.
- If you have a client who simply cannot adhere to a schedule or does not respect your time, have them prepay prior to their grooming appointment. This should be a nonrefundable amount. After all, your time is valuable and it's worth money. If they cancel, you can't get your time back nor the money you would have earned if they had kept their appointment.
Are there exceptions to your rules? Absolutely.
If you don't already track how many cancellations you have each day and each week - start tracking it. Find out what your cancellation average is per day. Once you know the number, you can be proactive in correcting the problem.
Another way to look at it is from a dollar standpoint. At Paragon, our average cancellation rate is 10%. If you apply the 10% rate to your situation and you do 20 dogs a day at $50, that starts to add up! That translates into losing two dogs or $100 every day! Times that by five days a week and you're at $500 of lost revenue. To me, it's worth taking the time to simply call and remind people of their upcoming appointment the day before!
We are in the business of building positive relationships with our customers, both the two-legged and four-legged variety. Your personality and the type of relationship with your clients dictates how firmly you adhere to the demands on your time. Remember, these customers not only affect you and your time, they ultimately affect your schedule and your other clients. You need to be warm, caring, and maintain your professionalism.
Just because you are warm and caring does not mean you can't set rules and boundaries. Remember, you can still provide great customer service and have a mutually respectful relationship that benefits both you and your client.