Log InCartCall Now: (616) 667-7297

Blog » Professionalism

What’s the Hardest Part of Running a Business?


In my experience, the hardest part of running a business is STAFF!

Hands down the most challenging part of running a business is staffing it. Managing staff. Keeping staff. Paying staff. Keeping  them accountable. Keeping them productive. Keeping them happy.

And the real biggie – training them.

So let’s tackle the training challenge first. It’s far easier to hire basic labor than filling a position that requires skill. At our kennel, Whiskers Resort, we have an endless supply of dog enthusiasts that want to work in the kennel. With multiple colleges within our community, the labor force is easy to come by. After all, everybody wants to play with puppies!

But what about those jobs that require skilled labor? People like receptionists, bathers, managers and trainers.

One of the largest reasons I started the Paragon School Pet Grooming was because I could not find qualified groomers to operate in my fleet of mobile grooming vans. They just weren’t available. I still shudder when I think about it. There were times that I would have a van down for 6 to 12 months at a time before I could find somebody that could do the job. Not a very efficient way to run a business.

Working every day in a mobile grooming salon does not lend itself to a training environment. It can work if you just have to add polish to a skilled professional. But to take them from scratch? Nope. It doesn’t work. You just can’t afford the time it takes to train a new groomer – especially if you rely on YOUR productivity to pay the bills. Starting a person from scratch to become a competent groomer in a mobile just does not work!

To get a groomer that can work independently – with safety and quality – will take months, not weeks, to train. After all, this is not a skill that you can quickly show somebody how to do. It is not like showing them where the files are kept or how to use a coffee machine!

I’ve heard in some businesses, the company offers a new hire a two week training program. Then they turn them loose to groom ‘professionally. If that’s not a joke!!’ Okay – maybe in some circles they are out there calling themselves a ‘professional’ with just two weeks of training – but they’re not a ‘professional’ in my book!

Did you know that it takes the average person 3 to 7 times of hearing or seeing the same thing over and over before it actually sinks in? And that’s for an average learner. Sure, star performers might pick it up after the first or second try – but those people are few and far between. Most of us fall in the average category. We have to see or do the same task repeatedly before we do it correctly.

I’ve been in the pet care industry for over 30 years – primarily in the grooming aspect of the industry. Finding qualified groomers remains the number one problem in our field.

Finding talented grooming help was close to impossible was when I first stepped  up to the grooming table in 1979 – and it remains the same problem today. I have chosen to focus on this critical problem. I own multiple companies in the pet industry. On the educational side, my companies aid in training and personal development for both pet loves stepping into the field for the first time and for aspiring pet groomers and stylists.

It has always been extremely easy to enter the field of pet grooming. There are very few regulations of any sort. Anybody can start bathing and cutting hair off of the dog or cat, and call themselves a professional pet groomer. But that is so far from the truth. Those of us that spent years perfecting our craft know it takes time and dedication to become confident at all breed grooming. It takes years of practice and study.

Some of the ways that I have found to become a real professional include:

  • Studying the AKC Complete Dog Book or your national all breed book
  • Reading books produced by breed and/or industry specialist
  • Attending workshops and clinics hosted by industry leaders
  • Attending a grooming school – many have multiple programs to choose from
  • Taking an on line study course from a reputable institution
  • Attending continued education training at qualified grooming schools
  • Watching videos produced by leading pet professionals

Even graduates coming out of quality grooming schools are not truly proficient. If they have graduated with above average GPA’s, they have given themselves a great foundation. It is the starting point of their career – but they are far from being a polished professional. They still need guidance. They still need coaching. They still need mentoring. They still need to study. And most of all – they need to practice A LOT!

So let’s get back to that hiring challenge. If you’re faced with having to hire a groomer, what should you look for. One thing I recommend is Attitude. Attitude. Attitude. I always look for somebody who’s got a positive, upbeat attitude. Someone who is receptive to new information. They need to be moldable. Adaptable. And they cannot be afraid of hard work. I hire on potential, not necessarily experience.

Once you have someone with a great attitude, helping them be best they can be is fun – and it can be very gratifying. Use the resources available to help them self-directing their own learning.  It will take time, dedication and patience before you see your new hire flourish but you can lighten your training load by taking advantage of many educational resources currently available. Heck, you might learn a thing or two yourself.

It amazes me that our industry has not advanced more in this area. Sure there are more grooming schools than ever was before. Yes, there are certification organizations out there – but they’re still voluntary. Licensing, in some states is starting to catch on. However, we’re still a long way from having even a basic comprehensive licensing program in place for pet groomers and salon owners.

Happy Trimming!



The #1 Marketing Method for Pet Service Businesses

j0262233I’ve been testing this marketing method for almost 30 years. I started asking clients how they heard about us in the mid-1980s when I ran a fleet of mobile grooming vans.  Hands down, this marketing method has been my #1 form of advertising with every company I’ve run.  Mobile grooming.  Grooming salons. Grooming schools.  Full service luxury pet resorts.  If the company is based on service, referral-based marketing is the leader in getting new clients through the door.  It’s the #1 marketing method – period.

In his book, ‘The Referral Engine’, John Jantsch states “Human beings are psychologically wired to make referrals…  Making referrals is a deeply satisfying way to connect with others — asking for referrals is just another side of the same phenomenon.”

Stop and think about it.  If you’ve been able to read a testimonial from someone else or someone has told you about their positive experience with the company, don’t you go into the buying decision more confidently?  If you have a recommendation when you need to purchase something, especially a service based product, don’t you feel better about it?  Of course you do.

Referrals can come from anywhere.  They can be spoken or written in the form of a testimonial.  Of course, your existing clientele is your largest pool of influence.  However, there are many other areas of opportunity to encourage referral based marketing.

Areas of opportunity:

  • Your existing clientele
  • Hairdresser (they know everything!)
  • Local pizza joint
  • Coffee shop
  • Vets
  • Pet supply businesses
  • Dog parks
  • Rescue organizations
  • Trainers
  • Pet sitters
  • Anywhere people gather and talk

So what is the best way to encourage referral based marketing?  Don’t be boring!  People don’t talk about boring companies.  They don’t rave about poor or even mediocre service.  You need to stand out – in a positive way.  People talk about things that surprise and delight them.  They talk about things that bring a smile to their faces immediately.  They talk about things that make them feel instantly comfortable with your company and/or your service.  As John Jantsch says in his book, “If the marketplace isn’t talking about you, there’s a reason.  The reason is that you’re boring.”

The key with referral based marketing is it needs to come from the heart of your company.  It has to be the real you.  Day in – day out.  People are automatically drawn to kind and caring service providers.  Compassion is clearly obvious from the second they walk through the door.  They instantly know if you have their best interest in mind and will provide a quality job.  Perspective customers and clients can spot a fake a mile away.

A lot goes into successful referral based marketing.  It’s not an overnight process.  It embodies the entire core of your business.  The more areas that you can make a positive impression upon the client, the higher the likelihood they’ll talk about you after they leave.

In the last 20 years the marketing game has changed.  With the explosion of the Internet and social media marketing in the past few years, it’s become much easier – and economical – to reach out and touch your clients on a regular basis.  An appealing, professionally created website is the new Yellow Pages ad.  Electronic newsletters replace the old paper version.  Facebook allows you to generate images and encourage clients to interact about your company.  A comprehensive e-mail database allows you to stay in touch with your customers.

Referral-based marketing is about making a positive impression upon your customers.  The impression is so positive, they can’t wait to tell their family, friends, and acquaintances about the positive experience they have had with your business. What are you doing right now to get people talking about YOUR business in a positive fashion?

Happy Trimming,


Suggested Reading:   The Referral Engine by John Jantsch

The Importance of a Business Plan


Are you tired of working for others? Are you ready to step out on your own? Do you dream of owning your own business? Yes?

Fabulous – but are your prepared to open you own place?

Did you know that almost 50% of all service based businesses fail within 5 years? Don’t become one of those statistics. You need a plan. You need a comprehensive business plan.

A business plan acts as a road map. It’s your compass so you don’t get lost along the way as you launch your new venture. Not creating a plan is one of the biggest mistakes you could make with your future. It would be like trying to drive from Michigan to California without a map. Or a GPS. You’re not going to get there very quickly if you do not have a clear plan.

A comprehensive plan contains a number of key factors about your new business. This is a list of items from a business template I personally use and recommend whenever I start a new venture. It’s from the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). It can be found on line.

  • Business Plan Outline
  • Executive Summary
  • General Company Description
  • Products & Services
  • Economic Trends
  • Marketing Plan
  • Operational Plan
  • Management & Organization
  • Personal Financial Statement
  • Startup Expenses & Capitalization
  • Financial Plan

I know – I know. Most new business owners are so anxious to get going – they neglect this critical planning stage. There is lots of money to be made and pets be groomed. You don’t need a ‘plan.’

Whoa there. Failing to plan is a plan to fail. Period.

Filling out the many details in your plan can be an overwhelming process. Many are so intimidated by the financial calculations; you want to skip that process all together. But don’t! If you are overly intimidated by sections of the plan, get help. All successful businesses have a team of people that have helped them succeed. Start building your team now.

Most people find it helpful to have the following experts on their team;

  • Business Mentor
  • Certified Public Accountant
  • Bookkeeper
  • Attorney
  • Financial Consultant

If you do not have these experts to assist you with your plans, there are other options. You can take business and accounting classes. Attend local business seminars or workshops. Or take business classes on line. Plus, there are great computer programs that can help you set up and run your business.

Other resources to help you write a business plan include books, colleges and universities that work with Small Business Development Centers and counselors and mentors at the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). They provide low-cost classes on how to write business plans that can be very reasonable.


Most new businesses need some type of funding. However, it is so economical to start a pet grooming business; many new business owners skip the financial section of the plan. Big mistake. Even if you do not need a lot of money to start your business, writing a plan will allow you to clearly identify if your idea will be strong right from the start. Without a plan, you leave far too many things to chance.

You definitely will need a plan if you are going to apply for a business loan, look for private investors, or have business partners. Even if you don’t need assistance with funding, you still need a plan. YOU and  YOUR livelihood depend on it!

Before you even start to write your plan, get copies of loan applications used by banks, commercial finance companies, and government. These applications will give you a good idea of how much financial information you will need to include in the business plan.

A good business plan should provide a reader with a general idea of what a business owner is trying to accomplish. It should be well organized, neat, tidy, and easy to read. A reader should be able to get a good feel for what you want to accomplish within minutes of quickly flipping through the pages of the plan.

How long should your plan be? For a new start up grooming business, you plan can be 20 or 30 pages. You want to be concise and to the point. Long business plans are boring – and no one wants to spend time with a boring plan, including your potential funding resources! The text should be within one or two font families, making it very easy on the eyes to read. The text should be well-spaced. Bullet lists make it easy for the reader to get through a long list of details easily. Illustrations, samples of marketing materials, charts and simple spread sheets all bring the plan to life.

Just remember that the most important person for a business plan is YOU! By not working through the process of creating comprehensive business plan, chances are your business failing within a few years is greatly increased. Keep in mind, almost 50% of all new service businesses fail. Help yourself become successful by creating a plan for your new pet grooming business.


My Personal Pet Peeve: Lack of Professionalism

If you want to be treated as a true professional, you need to walk-the-walk and talked-the-talk.

Years ago when I was still at my grooming table every day, I was out to upgrade the image of a pet groomer. My clients were amazed when I greeted them in a skirt. My hair was done. My make-up was in place. (OK – by the end of the day it wasn’t quite as fresh as when I started out) My nails were always done professionally. (…and it hid the problems that come along with trimming toenails a tad too short!)  I found lipstick that was a stain, giving my lips a hint of color instead of magnet that attracted dog hair. When I met a client for the first time – my introduction was a warm greeting, a big smile and a handshake.

I constantly looked at ways to be a more knowledgeable groomer. With a bit of effort, it didn’t take long before I honestly turned the corner from a basic groomer to a pet stylist.  I made a very positive impression on my clients. I sweated the details – and it paid off ten-fold.

Sweating the details translates into all areas of your salon or mobile unit too. It will be influenced by; what your client sees, what your client hears and what your client smells.

In most professional services, you are not really selling expertise, your expertise is assumed. Generally, your prospect cannot intelligently evaluate your expertise anyway. Instead you are selling a relationship – a professional relationship. Your perspective may not know at first if you are competent at your craft.

But they do know if their phone calls are answered promptly and politely. They can sense instantly how a salon looks. Does it look crisp and clean? Does it smell bright and fresh? They know if their pet is treated with compassion. And they certainly know if they are being treated respectfully.

Your clients have four options;

  1. use your service
  2. use a competitor service
  3. do it themselves
  4. not do it at all

Give yourself the edge. Sweat the details. Take the time, and effort, to present yourself as a true professional. Make sure your personal presentation is well pulled together.  Gain the skills you need to communicate effectively with your clients. Enhance your grooming techniques so you can give them the best job possible in the least amount of time. Always remember to keep the safety of both you and the pet foremost in your mind.

Happy Trimming

error: Content is protected !!