Know Who Your Clients Are

1*9s5Wbgxbur4puKnaHYNHUQ

©DepositPhotos, Hasloo

I’m moving. Not only am I moving a service-based business, it’s going from one coast to the other. However, when you’re looking for an entirely new client base, it doesn’t matter if it’s one or several thousand miles away. The question is simply:

Will the area support my business?

The answer lies in who are your clients.

Do you know who they are?

I mean your personal clients. Clients are people who are interested and need your services. Not the general population at large. Marketing can get very expensive when you are trying to reach everyone. That only works for companies with marketing budgets in the millions of dollars.

My budget isn’t, so my clients:

  1. Have problems I can fix. I am a mobile groomer and Reiki Master specializing in elderly pets and cats. The first problem I fix is dirty and disheveled older pets and cats. The second is improving said pet’s wellness with complementary therapies.
  2. See me as a necessity. All my services are provided either in their driveway in my state of the art mobile grooming van or in their home. These clients do not want to take their elderly pets or cats outside their home for services and are willing to pay a higher rate.
  3. Pays me my worth. They understand I am a premium service. When setting pricing, the cost of living for the area is taken into consideration. How much do I need to make to live comfortably? Read the Small Business Agency (SBA) blog. Or this article from Inc. magazine. Here is where some people get hung up charging their worth. I currently live in Danbury, CT. In Danbury alone, there are over 9,000 licensed dogs. That does not include cats. Add in the surrounding towns, and we are upward of 30,000 pets. I can’t groom that many. I only need about 125 of them. When you market to such a small portion of the population, while offering a premium service, you can charge more than the areas’ average.
  4. Within my travel radius. How far are you willing to travel from your home to work? For me, it’s 15 miles. That tightens up my choices quite a bit. If I was willing to open up that radius, my home becomes less important to my business. Income can range widely within any given 30-mile radius. I could service a higher income area while living in a more affordable one.
  5. Other criteria. What personal decisions factor into your business decisions. My personal decisions regarding locations included: pension friendly state, area attractions, weather, and liberal leaning politics.

How do I know if the area will support my business?

There is some work on your part that needs to get done. It begins with demographic research.

  1. Remember all those pesky census bureau questionnaires we filled out? All that information regarding the population of the United States can be found at Census.gov. Everything from age, sex, income, education, and so forth is right at your fingertips.
  2. The Small Business Administration (SBA) makes demographic information available to us as well.
  3. Trade Associations publish demographics particular to their industry. Didn’t know you had a trade association? Here’s a list of them.
  4. Once you have an area in mind, contact the local Chamber Of Commerce. They will have demographic information specific to their coverage area.
  5. Use the SBA’s SizeUp tool to compare yourself to similar businesses in your chosen area. This app is a little dated, however, it still offers valuable insights to other providers in your area.
  6. Before taking the plunge, visit the area and see for yourself if it’s a good move for you and your business.
  7. Are there businesses that I complement or do I fill a void in similar businesses? For myself, complementary would include human wellness such as massage, yoga, health studios and so forth, as well as veterinary offices that do not offer grooming. Similar businesses would be other grooming shops that do not want to groom elderly pets or cats.

While we don’t always get to choose where we live, there are always choices when it comes to our businesses. Better business decisions come when you have more information to work with. And the added bonus of knowing who your clients are is the ability to plan a marketing strategy that will save you thousands in the long run.


New Google Rules

I'm sure many of us can relate to the playground bully.

You're happily swinging away when someone much larger than you decides they want your swing. You could stand your ground, but we know how that plays out.

Think of Google as the very large kid on the playground. You want to play there? Well then, you follow their rules. They have their own browser (Chrome) and it is the search engine. Google averages 3.5 billion searches every day.

Google has instituted 2 new rules.

The first you can thank the porn industry for. 12% of all internet sites are porn related. To "protect" users from fraudulent sites, Google is requiring all websites have a basic SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. The purpose of this certificate is to provide an extra layer between your computer and any site. It changes http:// to https://. It provides that little lock you see on some websites. 

Without this certificate, anyone visiting your website will get a warning that this site may be unsafe. That will drastically reduce the number of people going to your site.

This rules is already in effect. If you're not sure you really need to bother with this. Head over to the Chrome browser and put your website in the search bar. That is how you're site will appear to potential clients.

My recommendation is to have your host provider install this certificate. It should run you anywhere from $10-30 a year. DO NOT USE cheaper third party software. 

And don't forget to to have your provider do a 301 redirect as well. The certificate is meaningless with a 301 redirect. If you don't know what it is, then don't attempt on your own.

The second is only important if you have a pop-up on your site. A pop-up encourages people to sign up for your newsletter. If they consider your pop up intrusive, then they will blacklist your site for mobile applications. Pop-up dimensions can appear much larger on mobile devices. If you are uncertain if your pop-up is annoying Google, visit your website from your phone. If it appears quickly or takes up the screen, then its intrusive and you need to fix that. If you don't know how, contact your pop-up provider.

Google is the search engine of choice by billions of users. Don't reduce the likelihood of potential clients even finding your site. These are pretty easy changes to make. If you think this is beyond your capabilities, then let your website hosting company do it for you.

 

 

 

 


Wesley And The Snake

 

Wesley was always one of my favorite golden retriever’s, as he loved to take a bath. Whenever I arrived, I would have to step back after opening the door so I wouldn’t get knocked to the ground when Wesley rushed into the van.

One day after I finished Wesley and gave him his treat, I waited in their kitchen for mom to pay me. Wesley settled down a couple of feet away from their kitchen table. A minute later, Wesley picked up his treat and went into the living room with it.

I was still waiting when the 10 year-old son walks past me, sighs very heavily, and calls out to his dad. “Dad, there’s another snake in the kitchen. “ And then just continues walking away.

I’m standing there frozen in place in the kitchen with the snake. I left my glasses in the van, so I’m blind as well. I don’t dare move because there’s A SNAKE IN THE KITCHEN and I don’t know where it is. All I’m thinking is the kid said another, so this is something that happens on a regular basis and that bum Wesley, took his treat and abandoned me with the snake in the kitchen.

I got up the courage to look at the kitchen table as I suspected that Wesley was no fool and had no plans to share his treat with a snake. And there it was, not 5 feet from me. Just curled up being a snake.

Dad comes running over with a bucket, scoops up the snake, tells me the cats keep bringing them into the house and not to tell his wife.

Three months later they moved about 500 miles away. Which sounds like how I would react to finding a snake in my house. While I would miss the traitorous Wesley, I wouldn’t have to worry about standing next to snakes in their kitchen anymore.

That’s not the end of the story. About a year later, a current client bought the house from the person Wesley’s family sold it to.

They also moved about two years later.


Winter Safety Tips 2016

 

It's that time of year again. 

Car Safety

Watch for antifreeze leaks. Its sweet taste attracts dogs and cats, very poisonous, and the bright green color is a DEAD giveaway. It cleans up easily with soap and water.

Outdoor cats looking for warmth frequently sleep on car engines. Banging loudly on the hood before starting your engine should rouse them.

Leaving your pet in your car while you shop at the mall is like leaving them in a refrigerator. The car retains the cold and your pet could suffer from hypothermia. A great way to gauge the interior temperature of your vehicle is with a thermometer window cling. It tells you what the interior temperature of your vehicle is.  On the flip side, you do not want to leave them in the car with the engine idling, as it is easy enough for an excited dog to move the gear shift from park to drive or reverse.

The Great Outdoors

Animals that spend a lot of time outside need more food. In particular, a higher protein diet is required.

The very young and the very old have little tolerance for the cold weather. Provide them with outerwear for both body and feet.

According to the ASPCA, more dogs are lost during snowstorms than at any other time. They can lose their scent, become disoriented and lost. Remember, a well-identified dog has a greater chance of returning home.

Use pet safe ice melt. When that is not possible, or you are unsure of what is being used; wash their feet BEFORE they get a chance to lick them.

Indoors

Insects will be coming into our homes for the winter. Watch for spider and insect bites and familiarize yourself with the signs of anaphylactic shock. Insect traps are baited with something tasty, so keep them out of your pet's reach.

 

The Holiday Season is in full swing.

 

Decorations

The most common holiday plant is the poinsettia. It is toxic. Keep it out of reach of your pets. Both Pet Poison Helpline (www.petpoisonhelpline.com) and the ASPCA (www.aspca.org) has a database of toxic plants and phone apps.

Chewing on electrical cords can cause cardiac arrest. Tripping on electrical cords can cause broken body parts and sudden blunt force trauma. (OK, maybe more of an issue for me.) Dogs chasing after something have been known to be dragging a Christmas tree behind them after a cord was snagged on a paw.

Glass ornaments pose a problem for those pets that confuse them with tennis balls.

Garland and tinsel is a particular problem for cats. Remember; never pull it out of your cat, as there may be an ornament hook at the other end.

Pine water is poisonous to pets. Fertilizers and pesticides will leach out into the water bowl.

Holiday Food and Drinks

Alcoholic beverages can cause intoxication, coma and death.

Coffee, tea and other caffeine products contain theobromine. It is toxic and affects the cardio and nervous systems.

Ham, fat trimmings and turkey skin can cause pancreatitis.

Cooked bones can cause intestinal obstruction and lacerations of the digestive system.

 Stuffings may contain sage, onions, mushrooms and raisins.

Too many sweets can cause obesity and diabetes. Artificial sugars cause a fatal drop in blood sugar, especially xylitol.

Holiday snack trays may contain macadamia nuts and grapes.

Chocolate contains theobromine.

A list of the most common people foods that cause problems for pets is found at both Pet Poison Helpline and the ASPCA’s website.

TIP: Broccoli can cause digestive upset and VERY gassy pets. You may want to keep that to a minimum unless you want your guests running for cover. Of course, if your guests have overstayed their welcome, then broccoli is the way to go.

You also want to provide your pets with a quiet place during the holiday parties. Even small gatherings can be stressful for them.

Cold Injuries

Cold injuries are caused by extreme or prolonged exposure to low temperatures. The most common areas affected are the tail, ears, paws and scrotum. A snout to tail assessment is always a good idea after coming in from the outdoors. Check for ice and salt in the pads and for any signs of frostbite or hypothermia.

The skin can become swollen, red and very painful. In later stages, it can become hard and pale. Additional signs of frostbite and hypothermia include shivering, slow or shallow breathing, lethargy, decreased heart rate and gums either pale or bluish in color.

If you suspect frostbite or hypothermia, you should first make sure the pet is out of the cold. DO NOT RUB THE AFFECTED AREA. The frozen ice crystals in the skin can lacerate the skin cells. Contact your vet for rewarming instructions. This is very important so that you can prevent further pain, stave off infection and minimize the possible tissue damage.

I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe holiday season.

©Mary Oquendo www.maryoquendo.com


Swat Team Vs. Groomer

I was working at a corporate store and we had just lost our store manager.

He quit. Imagine that. The store was having a hard time replacing him. And as a result they kept revolving other store managers to cover my store.

Every single day the store alarms would go off. 

Every Single Day. 

Apparently upper management didn't trust their own managers and would change the alarm codes on a daily basis. It was a running joke between the stores. 

One morning, the store manager du jour and myself were chit chatting while he tried several different codes to shut off the alarm when the phone rang.

I picked it up and the voice at the other end said: "This is the Brookfield Police Department, please exit the building."

I thought it was a joke. Many of the groomers in other shops were fully aware of what was going on and it was not usual for us to play jokes on each other. 

I told the store manager what the caller had said.

So, we both giggled and raised our arms as if we were being held up.

The next thing we know, 6 police cars come flying into the parking lot, there are cops outside the building with guns drawn, and one of them has a bullhorn. I would not have been surprised if the swat team came rappelling down the side of the building.

Depositphotos_21863681_s-2015

©depositphotos, londondeposit

Needless to say, they were not amused with us. They let us know they were not amused, but didn't feel like doing the paperwork involved with hauling our butts down to the station. And as Brookfield is a pretty quiet town, they had bragging rights amongst the other small town area cops. After, we profusely begged forgiveness, they went on their merry way. 

On a positive note, corporate stopped changing the store alarm code. 

 

 

 

 


Maximum Schnauzer

My name is Mac Beth and contrary to popular opinion, I am not a miniature schnauzer. I am maximum schnauzer. That’s right, I am ALL schnauzer.

Miniature my ass.

 

Depositphotos_6280498_s-2015

©DepositPhotos, FotoJagodka

I understand that my nemesis, the groomer, is coming today. Oh, they use code words like “Mary” and “Thank God”, but I know what she really is. She rings the bell and is all kissy and “how’s my boy”, but as soon as I am in her mobile grooming van, the instruments of torture come out. The comb. The brush. The shampoo.

Well, I’m ready for her!

9:00 am rolls around and I hear the van. Time for my game face. Nuts, its just some kids. I’ll leave my game face on in case they want to touch me.

9:15 am and I hear the van. Now, I’m really pissed. Boy, she’s going to get what for. Stupid kids touching me. Oh no! More kids. I’m going upstairs.

9:30 am and again I hear the van. About time. Some nerve keeping me waiting. Are you kidding me? More kids and is that THE GIRL??!! Oh no, Oh no, she puts makeup and clothes on me like I’m some sort of doll. Hide! Hide! Hide!

9:45 am and I hear the van. Please be the groomer, please be the groomer, please be the groomer. Yay! It’s mary. Everybody out of my way. Can’t you see the groomer is here. Later for you.

*Groomers note- This was the only time Mac Beth jumped in my arms, gave me a kiss, and was a good boy the entire time.


Holistic Pet Grooming

WooHoo! The book is finally available!

HolisticGroomBook-1

 

The book is 138 pages divided into 10 chapters.

 

Chapter 1

It begins with you. 

 

Chapter 2

Making positive changes to your work space.

 

Chapter 3

 All about the animals.

 

 

Chapter 4

Introducing your clients to a new way of doing things.

 

Chapter 5

Equipment and Tools

 

Chapter 6

Products including some recipes courtesy of Chris Pearson.

 

Chapter 7

The business side of things.

 

Chapter 8

 Marketing a holistic grooming service. 

 

Chapter 9

Emergency and disaster planning.

 

Chapter 10

Supporting service providers

 

To but this awesome book for only $20, visit Frank Rowe and Son or Barkleigh.


Finding Neutral Ground- Shaggy

This is the aptly named Shaggy.

 

IMG_4578

Shaggy was fired from his long time groomer because she felt Shaggy had become dangerous. And I applaud her decision. As groomers, I think we sometimes forget that we can refuse service. Shaggy was beyond her control and she recognized it. Instead of performing a service poorly, this groomer chose to focus on her strengths.

One of my strong suits is turning around problem pets. The owner informed me that Shaggy was most problematic with his nails. He is arthritic and an all around grumpy old man.

First groom:

I decided to save Shaggy's nails for last in the hopes that I wouldn't start out the groom riling him up. He needed to be muzzled and fought the entire groom. It felt like Shaggy knew his nails were coming and was on heightened alert the entire time. I used very tasty treats and calming music to no avail with him.

Second groom:

Lets try the nails first and get them over with. That worked even less then the first groom. He was totally unreasonable afterwards and I was just plan tired. It took me longer to do his nails than the rest of the entire grooming  session.

 

Third groom:

I need help with the nails. I had Shaggy's owner help me with the nails in my mobile grooming van. Plan C wasn't working very well either.

I need to find some neutral ground with this dog. That's when it hit me. The original groomer was house call and was working inside the home on Shaggy's turf. The inside of my grooming van is my turf. Neither was neutral ground.

Fourth groom:

I instructed Shaggy's owner to wait outside the van and I would clip Shaggy's nails before he entered my van. And 

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

Shaggy was wonderful (ish) for the rest of the groom. He is still a grumpy old man. 

IMG_4582

 

It took four attempts to find a solution that worked within Shaggy's parameters. There is a fine line between not giving up and recognizing when you should. 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Louisiana GEAF Update

B54fdf2e23c4a5a7a2d34976e8dcd3ea-300x178

 

We are working hard to get to everyone who either needs assistance with the Louisiana Flood, or wants to donate for those in need. Because we are a 501c3 Charity, we have rules we must follow. Although anyone can donate to GEAF, our funds can only go to groomers affected by catastrophic events. We cannot help with rescue groups, replacing tires on a mobile or paying for pets veterinary care. That doesn't mean we don't empathize or sympathize. We just have very strict boundaries set by the IRS. Rules that we must abide by to keep our 501c3 status. Thank you for understanding.

In addition, we can only help those to the tune of what is in our coffers. An unlimited amount of money doesn't magically appear. It is generously donated by our suppliers, manufacturers, and groomers.

 

Now that we got that out of the way, what is going on to help those in need.

1. Go to our website and make a donation. There is a Donate button on every page.

2. Debbie Rowe of Frank Rowe and Son has made a beautiful quilt that is being raffled off. You can buy a ticket at Groom Expo or online

14046009_1347038275324586_42918744770004744_n

3. You can drop off gently used equipment to Frank Rowe and Son at Groom Expo or ship it directly to them at 26 South Union Street, Middletown, PA 17057

4. You can Groom One For Louisiana! Dedicate one groom between now and Sept 11 and send the amount of that groom to GEAF for Louisiana Groomers Relief. We welcome you to post pictures of your grooms to our Facebook page along with your shop name, location and donation amount. Use hashtag #pawsforlouisiana to tag your photos and your donation through PayPal- GEAF2013@aol.com.

 

14051766_1096346277108403_605488457909262509_n

5. Paws For Louisiana Dog Wash Sept 25, 2016 10-3. To participate in the dog wash, visit the Paws For Louisiana website.

6. Come to the Internet Mingle on Thursday, September 22nd from 7-9pm and buy lots of raffles tickets for all the goodies donated by our sponsors. Food will be provided by Evolution Shears, but you will have to buy your own booze. We need you all to drink $291 worth because thats the minimum set by the Hershey Hotel.

Any donation can be earmarked specifically for Louisiana. If not, it will go into our general fund.