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“On the Road II” 7 Keys to Success with Mobile Grooming – John Stockman

Special Guests

John Stockman

John's been changing lives over the past 13 years one groomer at a time with Wag'n Tails Mobile Conversions. He is the National Sales Manager at the up-fitter transportation company that helps groomers save time and make money by taking their show on the road. His favorite part of his job is getting that phone call nine months after a new client has purchased a van and hearing how going mobile has changed their whole life. They have time for their kids, their relationship with their family is better, and they have less stress with more profit. John and Wag'n Tails pride themselves on being the go-to educational resource for clients who want to start a mobile grooming enterprise.

“On the Road” with Mobile Grooming

In this episode, Joe Zuccarello is joined by John Stockman from Wag’n Tails to discuss mobile grooming. With more than 3,300 mobile units and two decades on the road, Wag’n Tails makes “mobile” grooming “friendly.” John will enlighten us today on his 7 Keys to Success in Mobile Grooming and also answer some of the most pressing questions in mobile grooming:

  • How do mobile grooming and salon grooming differ in price?
  • How many booked calls out of every ten is considered good?
  • What effect does routing and scheduling have on profitability in mobile grooming?
  • What language can you use to ensure you keep your client for another month?

Tune in to find out!

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Transcript

Joe Zuccarello: Welcome to Hey Joe, a podcast answering questions asked by our listeners, created by pet professionals, for pet professionals. And, now, your host, Hey Joe’s very own, Joe Zuccarello.

What’s up, everyone, Joe Zuccarello here and welcome to Hey Joe, a podcast brought to you by Paragon School of Pet Grooming. Check out our site at paragonpetschool.com for lots of really cool information on a variety of programs, products and to connect to educational resources, such as webinars, podcasts, current events, special news, certifications and lots of other helpful information to help you grow yourself, your team and, of course, your business.

Let’s get started with this week’s episode.

Hey, everybody, Joe Zuccarello here and you are listening to another episode of the Hey Joe podcast where you get a chance to listen in on a real coaching call between myself and an industry expert. Many of the questions we receive straight from our listener audience and most of those start with the words, Hey, Joe.

Okay, so now you’ve decided to or maybe you’re really close to deciding on the career path of mobile grooming and maybe you’re wondering, “okay, what do I do next?” Maybe you’re asking yourself, “what things do I need to know to help me be successful and avoid failure.” Or, “what do I need to know to put into place or put into practice right from the very beginning?” Or, “what if I’m already mobile, what should I know to maybe help me, maybe help my business grow?”

Today we’re talking again with John Stockman and he is the sales guru at Wag’n Tails Mobile Grooming units, very popular and industry leading mobile unit outfitter. John is going to continue to talk to us about the important attributes associated with operating a successful mobile grooming business and how Wag’n Tails can help you achieve that success and, as always, you can go to paragonpetschool.com to learn more about John and to download the transcript from this podcast, and, of course, to subscribe to this podcast.

So, John and I will be talking today about the seven keys to successful mobile grooming. You’re going to want to definitely stick around to the very end of the podcast to hear about a very special and exclusive offer that John is making available to all of the Hey Joe podcast listener audience.
Thank you to that audience. Thank you to the Hey Joe listener audience for sending us questions about this topic and other topics that you would like to see us cover on future podcasts. If you want to submit your question for possible use on a future Hey Joe podcast it’s really easy. Simply email us at heyjoequestions@paragonpetschool.com and if you haven’t done so already, please do remember to subscribe to the podcast and pass it along. Share it with your friends and family and colleagues.

So, without further ado, let’s get talking to John.

Hey, everybody, Joe Zuccarello here with the Hey Joe podcast and I am joined by John Stockman. John Stockman is the sales guru, if you would, over at Wag’n Tails Mobile Grooming units and if you haven’t seen the Wag’n Tails vans you probably may or may not know that the mobile grooming area, units in your area are Wag’n Tails, but, John assures us that they are certainly the leader of the pack and if you’ve ever seen one of their mobile grooming vans you would agree, as well. Just by, not only seeing it, but the minute you step inside one of the vans.
I want to go ahead and remind everybody that if you have any questions that you would like answered on a future podcast, simply email us at heyjoequestions@paragonpetschool.com. You can visit our website at paragonpetschool.com to receive the latest news on all of our podcasts and to learn all about our podcast guests.

But, for this particular episode you are welcome, also, to visit wagntails.com. That’s w-a-g-n-tails.com to learn more about John’s product and all of the really great efforts up at Wag’n Tails. John, thanks for joining us today.

John Stockman: Hey, Joe.

Joe Zuccarello: So, John, tell us about yourself and about what’s going on over at Wag’n Tails.

John Stockman: Well, I’ve been with Wag’n Tails coming up on 13 years. I have spent my entire career working with small businesses like mobile grooming businesses and car dealerships, RV dealerships, that kind of thing. So, my background is sales and consulting to small businesses.
What’s going on with Wag’n Tails? We’re busy. Business is fantastic. The mobile grooming business is doing very well. People are demanding convenience and our clients are providing that. They’re providing a luxury, at home, convenient service and getting premium pricing for it and everybody’s happy.

Joe Zuccarello: That’s great. And, John, I wanted to let Hey Joe listener audience out there know that John is a repeat guest on the Hey Joe podcast so if you’d like to listen to one of John’s other podcasts, feel free to visit our web page. The episodes page on paragonpetschool.com and you can find the other episodes. I know we’ve covered content such as, kind of an overview of the mobile grooming business and some things to consider of why it might be a career path option for you. So, I encourage you guys to do that.

But, today, we are going to be talking about what John and the group at Wag’n Tails calls the seven keys to success. And, I got to tell you as an entrepreneur, I like the idea of somebody such as this particular company providing information to other entrepreneurs to help them, to help steer them … that’s a mobile grooming joke, right, steer? Lead them down the right path, there you go. The hits just keep coming, I’m here all week.
But, these seven keys to success and one of the very first keys, John, that you point out is, pricing and you call it the most common, but biggest mistake that mobile groomers can make. Can you explain why that is?

John Stockman: Well, most mobile groomers are coming out of a shop scenario and they know what shop pricing is like. Mobile grooming, on the other hand, is entirely different. The most common mistake they make is pricing themselves too low. But, what you have to keep in mind with this business, is, the price that you charge directly affects the type of customer you attract.

So, what you want to do is, you want to price yourselves in the high end of the market because those are the kind of customers you’ll attract. They’re the more affluent, they’re more likely to take very good care of their pets. They’ll get on a shorter groom cycle. It just basically is, setting your price at a premium because you’re providing a premium at home service. That’s basically going to attract the more affluent customer.

Joe Zuccarello: So, John, what if … when you say affluent customer there’s probably some of our listeners out there that, that particular customer immediately pops in their head. Who is the person with maybe some means than others, financial means than others? While other members of our, other listeners in our audience might be saying, “what if I don’t think that there’s any of those types of people in my market? The affluent customers.”

John Stockman: Yeah, right. Yeah, and when I say affluent, I don’t mean people that are living in giant McMansions. These are just people where both parents work, the kids have activities, they’re busy, busy, busy. You know you don’t have to look very far in your market, alls you have to do is look around.

You have people that don’t clean their own pool, they could. They don’t cut their own grass, they could. They don’t shop for their own groceries. They don’t clean their own house. I mean, their time is more valuable than their money. That doesn’t mean that they have to be upper, upper class. You know, middle class and up pretty much cuts it.

And, they’ve got pets, usually more than one and they’re members of the family so they’re going to take care of the pet. And, yeah, I don’t want you to think affluent, they have to be millionaires, not by any case. The last bit of research we did, I think the average household income for both was somewhere in the $80,000 range.

So, you’ve got neighborhoods all around you with those kind of clients and finding clientele isn’t the hardest part of mobile grooming. The hardest part of mobile grooming and what I spend a great deal of my time counseling … you know, when somebody first buys one of the vans we spend a lot of time counseling with them on how to launch, operate and grow the business and pricing’s a very key category on that.

But, I also tell them, “look, your phones going to ring off the hook and the biggest word I need to put into your vocabulary is a very simple two letter word, no. Because you’re going to, if you take on all comers you’re going to burn out.”

So, basically what you want to do is, you’ll target specific areas and getting the price is not really an issue. You can get it but you have to learn how to sell your benefits.

Joe Zuccarello: Right, so one of the things with price … I know that you had made reference to a lot of your groomers who choose mobile grooming as a career path are used to salon pricing-

John Stockman: Right.

Joe Zuccarello: And salon pricing makes total sense for the salon.

John Stockman: True.

Joe Zuccarello: But, in the mobile, you’re doing is, you’re trading a premium price for time and you’ve often told me before what you’re selling back to the customer isn’t just a great groom and great customer experience, you’re selling back to them their time, which I thought was just a brilliant way to think about it.

But, one of the methods that you recommend that I’ve got to believe is probably different than most grooming salons, is pricing the groom by the hour.

John Stockman: Exactly. Yeah, yeah, and to just jump back real quick, yeah, you’re giving them a gift that no one else can give them and that’s the gift of time because everybody’s pressed for time. So, yeah, the way you price yourself with a mobile is you price it by the hour. Now, that’s not something you communicate that with a customer.

When it’s your initial visit to that client you’re going to ask all the questions when you’re setting up the appointment. How long has it been since the dog’s been groomed? Do you brush it? Yeah, so on and so forth. You know you may get there-

Joe Zuccarello: Then a customer lies to you and tell you that they brush it every day.

John Stockman: Yeah. Is your pet matted? No. When you get there you can pick it up with a comb. But-

Joe Zuccarello: Nevertheless.

John Stockman: What you’ll do is, you’ll try to get an idea how long it’s going to take you to groom that pet and you’re going to quote a range because like I said before, you can pick it up with a comb. You don’t know the condition of the pet when you first get there. And, this is with the initial contact so you want to price on a range and if it’s … if the average price in your area is $80 a groom and it’s going to be an hour and a half pet, you’re going to quote them between $120 and $150 in order to give yourself some leeway.

Now, once that client becomes a regular customer then you know the condition of the dog. You know you’re going to be in there every two, four or six weeks, and if you’re not, fire them because you don’t want to go any longer than six weeks. So, you already know about what you’re going to be into then, so then you’re going to have a set price, based on that dog’s going to take an hour, hour and a half, two hours, whatever it is. But that first quote, you always want to quote a range just to cover yourself.

Joe Zuccarello: Yeah, that’s … so many of the things you’re talking about, John, and you know one of the things I want to make sure, for all of our brick and mortar salon friends out there, as well, we’re not necessarily saying that mobile is any better or any worse than brick and mortar.

John Stockman: No, of course not.

Joe Zuccarello: It’s just a different career path and different … simply looking at it this way, it’s just a different business model so it’s not all things for all people but I think some of the principles you’re talking about, I think could probably, for our Hey Joe listener audience that is brick and mortar salon, some of these principles could be at least attempted or tried or probably very viable for brick and mortar. I mean you could still do the price per hour in a brick and mortar.

John Stockman: Sure, and a lot of this stuff we’re going to talk about today is transferrable. You know, it would work for a shop, as well. And, not everybody is a mobile grooming customer. There’s always going to be shop customers. That will never change. And-

Joe Zuccarello: Yeah, these businesses share the market, for sure.

John Stockman: Yeah, there’s so much business out there. I mean, shops can attest to this, I mean everybody’s busy. We wish we had another million or so groomers in the market because right now there’s a groomer, well has been a groomer shortage for a while. But, yeah, a lot of this will translate over and you know the shop customer and the mobile customer are really, in our experience, are just two different people.

Joe Zuccarello: Right, two different creatures, for sure. And, you know, so when you’re talking about pricing per hour, and, again, this is, let’s say Betty Pet Groomer out there, she’s got a single van. A single mobile grooming unit. She’s doing awesome, right, her book is full and she decides … on our previous podcast, I know we did talk about at the time, at time you do add another van to your fleet? At what time do you become a fleet? More than one van, I guess, is a fleet, right?

John Stockman: Yeah.

Joe Zuccarello: So, pricing by the hour, I would imagine that that’s got to help, also, with the compensation of maybe groomers that work for you, as well.

John Stockman: Oh, absolutely.

Joe Zuccarello: Is it easier to figure that way?

John Stockman: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. I mean it’s the same if you were an owner/operator or if you were an employee. You want to price yourself by the hour because it’s going to depend on how long it takes to do the pet. If you just price it by breed you could wind up finding yourself in a mess and now you’ve spent two hours grooming a 45 minute pet and you got the 45 minute per price.

So, pricing by the hour … and you know, there’s a way to do it and still price by breed. You know if it’s a well taken care of pet and it’s, name the pet, you know about how long it’s going to take to groom, so you could still say, “for a boxer it’s X,Y,Z.”

But, the easiest way to do it is, how long’s it going to take to groom the pet and then price it accordingly. You can do that in a shop or a mobile. It translates. The whole thing boils down to the old adage, time is money. So, that’s why we recommend pricing by the hour.

Joe Zuccarello: Well, so you started to hint to what you call the second key to success which is selling your benefits and I’ve been in the industry for quite some time and I’ve been in sales for even longer and one of the things that I know for a fact, is that the only question that a customer or, I guess, all customers for that matter, know to ask is, how much does it cost? See, they don’t know to ask anything else. They’re uneducated, they’re uninitiated. That’s our job, right? To fill in the two gaps but I don’t know, 90, 95, 100% of the time.

Probably the first question out of their mouth is, “how much?”

John Stockman: Yes, yeah. Yeah, it’s common. The phone will ring and “how much to do my Shih Tzu?” I tell everybody else, the last thing out of your mouth is a dollar amount. So, what you will do is you’ll say, “well, let me tell you about my service.” You know, “I come directly to your door. I’m fully self-contained. A warm, hydro massage bath, a blow out, one-on-one with the pet the whole time.”

I mean there’s a whole litany of things that you go through. So, you sell your benefits and then when you get through that you say, “I’ll be in your area on Wednesdays, would you like a morning or afternoon appointment?” The reason you do that is because if you say, “would you like to set an appointment?” There’s an answer to that, no. All right. “No, I don’t want an appointment.”

But, if you say, “would you like a morning or afternoon appointment?” You can’t answer that with no. You have two choices. You have morning or afternoon. In the sales book, that’s called the trap close. You trap them. You’ve got morning or afternoon.

Now, if they still balk, then you go to phase two of selling your benefits and that’s selling yourself. First you sell the benefits of mobile grooming. Then, if you don’t get the appointment then, then you go to sell yourself.

“Well, I’ve been grooming for X number of years. I went to so and so academy. I do continuing education at shows. I’m a competitive groomer.” Whatever your benefits are, selling yourself. Then when you get to that point, you ask again, “Wednesdays, morning or afternoon?”

Then, you can go ahead and quote a price because as you start explaining to them the benefits of mobile grooming that $50 groom starts going up in their head because you’re listing all the benefits. So, that $50 starts going up and up and up and up. So, that way when you hit them with “well, $85-

Joe Zuccarello: That’s it?

John Stockman: There’s less sticker shock.

Joe Zuccarello: That’s all?

John Stockman: I get all that for $85. But, yeah, and it’s not that hard to do. I mean, we even supply people with a sample phone script. When they call and ask this, this is what you say. And, they, of course, they’re able to take all the liberty they want and if I have a customer and her name’s Betty, I say, well, here’s a sample phone script but I want you to Bettyize it. Make it more personal for you.

And, then, you kind of keep that handy as a little cheat sheet when your phone rings and pretty soon it just becomes second nature.

Joe Zuccarello: Well, and what I really like about that is that you are, you’re teaching us that asking questions is really … there’s a tried and true adage that says, the person that’s asking the question if usually the one that’s controlling the conversation.

John Stockman: Yep.

Joe Zuccarello: And, I think it’s really great that you’re teaching us that asking the questions in order to identify what you’re talking about is establishing a value for not only the service but why you’re the best provider for that service. I think you said a moment ago, not everybody’s cut out to be a mobile customer and really, it sounds like you’re giving our listener audience out there anybody contemplating mobile grooming as career path is, you’re giving them a license to say that’s okay. Not everybody’s cut out to be a mobile groomer and not everybody’s cut out to be a mobile grooming customer.

John Stockman: And, that’s true. We tell people, look, if you book one out of ten phone calls, you’re doing great.

Joe Zuccarello: Is that right? Wow.

John Stockman: Yeah, yeah, well the phone, the phones ring like crazy. People will come here and get their van and on the way home, they’re a Florida customer, in Tennessee their phones ringing. “Can you come and groom my dog?” Or they stop for gas and people walk up to them. “Can you come and groom my dog?” Happens all the time. But, the whole idea of selling your benefits is showing value. “I come to your house. I don’t need anything but the pet. I’m fully self-contained. I’m one-on-one with the pet the entire time. Is that something that appeals to you?”

You know, there’s the question. Who’s going to say no? “A warm, hydro massage bath and a blow dry, is that something that sounds appealing to you?” Well, who’s going to say no to that? So, as you go through these benefits you’re constantly probing and finding out what’s important to them and basically everything you list as a benefit is going to be something they’re pleased with, they like.

Joe Zuccarello: Well it’s, and again, it’s depending on what their priorities are and I use this … you know I do a lot of seminars and a lot of consulting and teaching folks and one of the things I say, I say, “listen, don’t involve yourself in a spending equation.” What I mean by that is, just because you can’t afford something doesn’t mean that your customers can’t afford it. Right?

John Stockman: Right.

Joe Zuccarello: So, don’t … so, maybe before you were a mobile dog groomer, maybe the thought of having a groomer pull up in your driveway and charge you $100, you thought was preposterous. Now, the tables have turned and you’re in that role, but don’t think that … and back to the affluence type of thing, I’ve had the pleasure of working in this business for over three decades and one of the things that we have always seen is that, it depends on where the person puts their customer. The pet parent put their priorities.

I have seen people pull up in vehicles that look like they live in it. Right? And drop $1000 on a dog’s training. Right? Or a deluxe stay in a penthouse in a high end pet resort. So, you know, they do come in all shapes and sizes. But, to your point, try to level the playing field, give yourself the best chance of possibility, target those neighborhoods where you think that the people are not cutting their grass and-

John Stockman: Right. Well, that and you know pets anymore aren’t really pets, they’ve been humanized.

Joe Zuccarello: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yes they are.

John Stockman: Over the last decade or 15, well actually probably longer than that, 15 years or so, the “humanization” of pets has really, really taken on a life. There’s other things that are going to get put to side, put aside or even canceled because Fluffy’s going to get taken care of. So, what people have to understand is hat pets are going to be taken care of and people don’t mind pampering their pets. So, there’s, if you sell your benefits right and make them understand exactly what they’re getting for the amount they’re spending, you’ve just got to show them value. And, the value is there.

Joe Zuccarello: Well, and I’ve said this, I think on every podcast, but definitely on yours before, we’re, my wife and I, we are that customer. Right? We have turned into that customer. Our dog wears pajamas when it’s cold out and we do, we have a mobile groomer pull up in our driveway and her … I can tell it’s a Wag’n Tails unit and she’s great. So, we’re definitely spoiled by it for sure.

So, talking about those neighborhoods, right, and where to target. I think on another podcast when we spent some time together, you called this practice clustering appointments, is that?

John Stockman: Right.

Joe Zuccarello: So, the third key to success is proper scheduling.

John Stockman: Correct, yeah. Yeah, another big mistake that’s made is that you set yourself up too large of a service area and it’s common. People do that. We try make sure that they’re not doing that. There’s a couple things that you run into when you start out with too big of a service area.

First, you’re doing … when you’re first getting started you’re going to have to do a little zigzagging around your territory just because you need to fill your book. You try to keep them in that cluster, but, if you set to big of a service area the next thing you know is you’re fully booked and you’re doing too much traveling so you start shrinking the service area.

In order to shrink the service area, you have to drop customers that are too far out and start adding ones that are closer in and you really don’t want to do that. You’re not really doing a service to yourself and the easiest thing to do is just look at the area that you’re in, and we help you with this. And, get your service area set up and then get everything set into clusters.

So, Mondays you’ll be in a certain area. That goes back to when you were doing the close to get them to set an appointment, “I’m in your area on Wednesday.” So, you’ll have certain areas of your territory that you’re in on certain days of the week. That allows you to go to one area, groom all day and go home. So, that is the key to what we call, efficient routing and scheduling. Routing and scheduling kind of go hand in hand. Scheduling is the time, routing is the direction you take in your van to get there.

So, scheduling or setting up a service area that’s manageable, that works, is a key. Now, not everybody is in a cluster or a tightly packed metropolitan area, so if you’re in more of a rural area then we have what we call hub and spoke. So, the hub is where you live and you go out on Wednesdays and maybe you hit Joeville and then Tuesdays you’re in Johnville and Thursdays you’re in Bettyville.

You know, you set it up like that so that you’re, again, you may have to drive 15 or 20 miles to get to Joeville, but you’re there all day. So, that way you’re cutting down on the amount of time you spend driving and you lower your fuel costs at the same time. So, what you want to be sure and do is just set yourself up right going in. And, there’s routing and scheduling software out there. NaviGroom is one that I’m familiar with that’s really slick.
So, you can do that, use those to start out with. It’s good to do that as you build your client base because that will kind of keep you on the straight and narrow and keep you focused on being efficient when you schedule.

Joe Zuccarello: Right and I’ll tell you, there are people, Hey Joe listener audience out there might be saying, “well, what if somebody’s just not available on Wednesdays and they’re going to demand that I come on Thursdays but Thursdays I’m in Johnville. I’m not in Joeville.”

John Stockman: Yeah. Right.

Joe Zuccarello: I think I know where you’re going to go with this but I think people are going to be oddly surprised that … or pleasantly surprised that it’s amazing. Just the same as prioritization of funds, they also prioritize their tasks and their schedule, based on what’s the most important. So, if I know for a fact that we have moved. We’ve moved a lot of things out of our calendar in order to make sure that we were in the rotation or on the schedule for our little dog’s grooming, according to his mobile groomers schedule. Because you don’t want to fall out of rotation.

John Stockman: Yeah, well you never get back in if you do.

Joe Zuccarello: Well, no I had to wait six weeks just to get started with her.

John Stockman: Right. Yeah. Most of them have a waiting list and it’s not uncommon that you place a phone call to one and I encourage the audience to just go to wagntails.com, we’ve got a, basically we have, it’s a groomer locator we use to drive business to our clients and just go on there, put in your zip code, or put in any zip code and call one. You’re likely to get a voicemail that says something like, “hi, this is Susie with Susie’s Zoom and Groom. If you’re a new client don’t leave a message, I’m not taking on new clients right now, if you’re an existing client, leave one.”

And, that’s not uncommon. I mean, it’s more common than not. Just try it. It’s something that might amaze you. But, the other thing about if you’re in Joeville and Johnville, if they’re kind of in between then you can kind of work them in to either one of those days. And, the other thing, too, is it’s not uncommon at all to have a key to the house or a garage door code. The check’s on the kitchen table, the dog’s in the crate. So, the customer, a lot of times the client’s not even home.

Joe Zuccarello: Have you been to my house? It’s exactly what happens at my place.

John Stockman: Yeah. I mean really you become a member of the family. I mean, you’re Fluffy’s caretaker and there’s a lot of love for Fluffy’s caretaker.

Joe Zuccarello: So, John, let me ask you a question. So, you know a lot of the conversation we have is we’re kind of helping people to kind of lay their groundwork. But, I know there’s some Hey Joe listener audience members out there that are already established mobile grooming operators and what if something’s just a little out of whack?

How do they, as far as let’s say, their scheduling, right, and what if they’re already a mobile, how do they tweak it to make it work better for them? Any tips there?

John Stockman: Yeah, I mean, it basically, a lot of it’s driven by common sense. You know if you’ve got somebody that’s, you need to move, generally you just explain to them what’s going on and you say, “look, it’s almost impossible for me to work Fluffy in on Thursdays, can I move you to Tuesdays?” And, a lot of times they’ll just say, “yeah, sure.” It’s not that big a deal.

You know if they’re adamant that they can’t do it then you’re going to replace them, basically. There’s so much service out there. You’re really in control. The client doesn’t need to know that but you really control it. You control where you are, when you go there, how much you charge. I mean, you’re completely in control. I tell people all the time, “if you’re working too hard, it’s your own fault.” Again, goes back to me telling you how to say that two letter word, no.

But, yeah, I mean it’s one of those things where once you’re booked up and if you can’t get them to move you just have to let them go and it’s really, it’s one of the hardest things groomers struggle with is, firing a client. Now, it’s a little easier if the client’s a jerk or if the dog’s nuts. But, you become attached to the animals. We get that. I mean, everybody does that and sometimes you have to make that hard decision to let them go. It’s tough, it really is.

Joe Zuccarello: So, one of the next keys to success … actually before we get there, one of the things I wanted to do, kind of just taking a half a hop back to pricing. I know that it’s not easy to do math while people are listening to their earbud. But, I know that, if you want to kind of explore how many dogs a day and how do I pay my, the loan on my van and how do I make money after that.

John Stockman: Sure.

Joe Zuccarello: Wag’n Tails has an equation that I’m sure if they just reached out to you, you can walk them through that-

John Stockman: Oh, happy to do that, yeah.

Joe Zuccarello: Equation on a time limits. They have a little bit more time to explore that nest of specific questions to them and their business. So, I just want to take a half a hop back to remind people that listen, when we talk about pricing, John and his team can help you through that.

So, just a quick reminder to our listeners out there. This is the Hey Joe podcast, we are talking today to John Stockman at Wag’n Tails. You can go to the website at wagntails.com. That’s w-a-g-n-tails.com or if you’re driving and you can’t remember that and it’s easier for you to remember our website, paragonpetschool.com, please go there and you can find out all the information necessary and get the links right over to speak to John and the team at Wag’n Tails.

We’re talking about the seven keys of success for mobile grooming businesses and we’re on now to our next key of success and that is, rebooks and reminders. And, I know for the grooming audience out there, the Hey Joe audience out there, it’s kind of a duh moment, right. It’s the V8, slap your forehead kind of moment. Of course, rebooks and reminders are going to be important. But, probably never as much, maybe, as in mobile because especially, John, as we get to maybe no shows and last minute cancellations. I mean that can, boy that can put a real hole in your day, couldn’t it?

John Stockman: Yeah, it can mess things up pretty good. The key with rebooks and reminders and the reason that we have it as one of our seven keys is that with mobile, you know you’ve got a set schedule. You’ve got them on a two or four week schedule and it’s important that they stick to that schedule because it’s hard to fill a hole if somebody just decides to cancel at the last moment.

The first part of this is two, four or six week schedule. That is the maximum, is six weeks. If they want to go eight weeks, ten weeks, once a year dogs. Why dogs go … I tell people all the time, “look, eight week, ten week, twelve week, once a year dogs, those are in the rear view mirror. You don’t have those any more.” So, you have to get them on a two, four or six week schedule. You’ve got to get the rebook and it’s not uncommon for people to book out six months in advance.

We have groomers that have people on an annual schedule. So, getting that schedule put together is key, but, the rebooks and reminders so that you don’t have the no shows and the cancellations is absolutely critical. When you return that dog to the owner, first of all, it’s the most wonderful pet you’ve ever met in your life and you absolutely love it. It’s just like a kid. Who doesn’t like to hear how great your kid is?

Joe Zuccarello: Well, I’ve got news for all of you others out there, all of you other pet parents, my dog is the best dog in the whole world.

John Stockman: No, mine is.

Joe Zuccarello: My mobile groomer tells me that.

John Stockman: Yeah.

Joe Zuccarello: Oh, shucks, you just burst my bubble.

John Stockman: So, yeah, little Fluffy is just fantastic and you’ve already got … when you hand the pet back, say, “okay, same time next month.” Just assume the rebook. Hand them the appointment card with the-

Joe Zuccarello: Presumptive language.

John Stockman: Date on it.

Joe Zuccarello: Presumptive language, right?

John Stockman: Exactly, exactly. You assume that rebook and make sure, if they balk at it say, “look, I am booked up. When you call and want to try to set an appointment it may take” and you can attest to this, Joe, “it may take me six weeks to work in your schedule” or “I’m fully booked. I can’t take on another client.”

So, make sure they understand that, even if you’re starting out. I call it a little white lie but it’s going to be true within about three, six, nine months, depending on your business. But, it’s not uncommon to get fully booked in three, four months. So, you want to make sure that they understand.
When you call, even if it’s one of your first clients and you get them right in, say, “you were lucky because I had a cancellation I was able to get you right in.” So, what you want to do is assume the rebook, make sure they’ve got the appointment card and then even though you’ve handed them that appointment card you want to make sure that you have to do a reminder.

Remind clients of their upcoming appointments. Now, some of the automated scheduling systems like, NaviGroom, do that for you. They send out texts automatically and all that stuff but you want to be able to email, call, text, but you’ve got to do the reminder. And, you want to get them two days in advance, three days in advance, send them another one if you don’t get a confirmation. Hit them again, but you’ve got to make sure that they aren’t pulling no shows because it totally messes up your day.

You know, that $85, there was an hour window there or depending on your schedule where you should have booked a dog and made $85. Now you’re making nothing. So, it’s important that they understand it. Now, in time, that just all becomes automatic. But, you need to have a cancellation policy. You have to let them know going in, when you do that first trip there and you’re giving the dog back, make sure they understand, “here’s your appointment. We’re confirming it right now, we’ll remind you, but there’s a 24 hour cancellation policy. “Because you will have a list of people that you can work in if you do get a cancellation.

Joe Zuccarello: So, do you charge, do you recommend charging a fee?

John Stockman: Absolutely. Yeah, you got to charge them for it and you charge them a full groom fee.

Joe Zuccarello: Is that right? So, it’s whether they got their dog groomed or not, that’s one of your recommendations?

John Stockman: Yeah. I recommend that. Now, that’s the policy you set in place. Are you always going to follow it? No. I mean if it’s a great client and something happens, you have to use common sense, apply common sense to it. But, you need to make sure that they understand the policy starting out so that they don’t just think it’s no problem to just blow you off and it won’t cost them anything. Make sure they know that there’s a penalty there.

Joe Zuccarello: Right, right.

John Stockman: And, it’s not uncommon that you’ll get people that will do that a couple times in a row. Fire them, move on. You don’t have time for people like that. You can’t be jacking around with customers who don’t respect your time.

Joe Zuccarello: Right. No, it’s a fair way of approaching business. It’s not holding it over their head, it’s just treating yourself fairly, as well. And one of the … again, it’s your profession, right? So, it’s what you do, so you know it kind of leads us into the next key for success and that is … and I got to tell you this is probably, in all of these things, my biggest stickler. Okay? And, that is, ohhh, and I, yeah, I might get a little animated here, right? But, it is professional image. And, I can’t tell you … you know you’re talking about this affluent neighborhoods. It doesn’t have to be like what you call McMansions and by the way, yes I live in a modest home but I do realign my funding or financial priorities to afford mobile grooming.
So, I don’t live in a McMansion, but I will tell you that if you are serving this type of clientele I would bet that the professional image not only of yourself but also your unit needs to match what the neighborhood is.

Can you imagine, I would probably fire the best mobile groomer I would have if she pulled up in a jalopy. For you young people out there, go look that one up. You’ll have to Google it, but it’s an old, broken down vehicle. But, it’s got to almost match the property in which it’s pulling up on.

John Stockman: Yeah, there’s, the key to getting the price that you deserve is not only your skill as a groomer, but what you pull in the driveway. And, I’m not saying you have to have a brand new Wag’n Tails, but it has to be clean. It has to look good. You can’t have things falling off of it. You can’t have oil leaks in the driveway, that kind of thing.

But, yeah, image is everything, especially that first impression. And, what we encourage our clients to do is when they have their first grooming appointment is to bring the pet parent out and show them the van so that they understand what’s going on in there. That it’s just not a van with a tub of water in there. You know, that’s its-

Joe Zuccarello: A blue kiddie pool. Right?

John Stockman: Yeah, right, exactly. Yeah, that, because you’re going to give them a very good impression there. You want to look your best. You want to make sure … we understand dog grooming, you get wet and everything else. But, yeah, it’s just you want to have a positive reflection on your business and services that you provide and that first impression is important.

You know you want to have graphics that look good. They’re clean, they’re not peeling off. You want to have that same brand image float through the rest of your business and marketing, your website, your social media, any kind of advertising. You know, you want to stay within those branding guidelines.

What we do with our in house graphics department is, we provide our clients, once we have their graphic design done, we provide them with files so that they can get business cards, letterhead, tri-fold flyers, whatever they want, that matches that. Some of them get their logos embroidered on their outfits and whatnot.

You know you want to keep the vehicle clean, inside and out. And, we’ve got an on-board vacuum system that you can do that. But, they’re paying a premium price and that sets a level of expectations and you have to meet or exceed those expectations.

Joe Zuccarello: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. And, it’s that whole professional image. It doesn’t stop with just a person, but it does include also the vehicle. It does include the sound of vehicle, the emissions from the vehicle and so now we start kind of getting into another success factor, which is maintenance.

I kind of maybe and I might have went off script a little bit here, but when I think of maintenance, of course, you know, it’s not only … you know if you think about maintenance you might be thinking, “okay, I’ve got to get my tires rotated. I’ve got to get my oil changed” that sort of thing. And, of course, that is important and of course [crosstalk 00:40:40] but it also-

John Stockman: There’s a big part of that that a lot of people don’t pay attention to-

Joe Zuccarello: Which is?

John Stockman: And that’s maintain yourself.

Joe Zuccarello: There you go. Oh, so tell me-

John Stockman: Did I step on you there, Joe? I’m sorry if I did.

Joe Zuccarello: No, dude, this is, no we really get along well. Again, it’s kind of back to my, one of those big sticklers, right? And, so, tell me about maintenance of physical, mental, equipment, that sort of thing.

John Stockman: Yeah, well maintenance of the vehicle’s important. As soon as you have an issue where you can’t groom because something happened to the vehicle, then it throws your whole schedule into chaos, and you’re doing overtime because you’ve got to go back and catch up with people because you missed a day or what have you. So, we give you all the recommended maintenance schedules, and we’ve got a full time customer care manager that’s just a phone call away, and the last time we tracked it, it was 87% of the phone calls that came in on a daily basis were taken care of over the phone, and they’re right back on track.

But, the important thing that I want to stress here is to maintain yourself. Our business model calls for six dogs a day, five days a week. All right? But, we also want you to schedule four weeks of vacation time in there. This is hard work. I mean, people think it’s-

Joe Zuccarello: Now wait-

John Stockman: Playing with puppies all day long.

Joe Zuccarello: Wait a minute.

John Stockman: It is physical labor-

Joe Zuccarello: Wait a minute. Dog groomers taking four weeks of vacation, really?

John Stockman: Yeah.

Joe Zuccarello: I mean that’s working 11 months out of the year.

John Stockman: Yeah.

Joe Zuccarello: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:42:12]

John Stockman: Sure, yeah. I mean when you look at our business model, you know, we put four weeks in there. Now, you got to be smart how you schedule those. You know, you don’t want to schedule over the holidays because the holidays, from Thanksgiving to New Year you’re going to be, it’s going to be insanely busy. But, yeah, you want to definitely schedule some vacation time.

I mean, it’s important for you to take time off. A lot of people, you know, I say, “get a good chiropractor. Go see the chiropractor at least once a month. Or go get a mani/pedi. Take care of your body and take care of your brain.” You know, burn out is something that can happen in mobile because they don’t learn the two letter word that I tell them to learn.

Joe Zuccarello: No.

John Stockman: They don’t know how to say no. And before you know it they’re doing eight, 10, 12 dogs a day and it’s like, good Lord, you’re going to kill yourself.

Joe Zuccarello: Well, that goes back to our previous podcast about the myths, right, about-

John Stockman: Yeah. Right.

Joe Zuccarello: I’m the only groomer in town and I’ve got to groom 12 dogs a day and … if you guys haven’t listened to that, go listen to that podcast.

John Stockman: Yeah, that’s a good podcast. It’s got the myths and it’s got the benefits to the pet, to the pet parent and to the groomer. But, yeah, it’s important that you take care of yourself. I mean this is tough physical labor and you really have to be sure that you take care of yourself.
And, going back to pricing, we have a lot of customers that control … they don’t want to add vans to the fleet. They don’t want to have employees. They’re happy being an owner/operator but they’re too busy or they got the phone is ringing off the hook. They’ve got 70 people on a waiting list. Control demand with price. First thing you do, raise your price $10 and you’ll be surprised. I deal with people all the time that price themselves too low and I’m working with them. Sometimes it takes several months or even a year to get their pricing in line with where it ought to be and I say, “the first thing I want you to do is everybody across the board raise their price $10.”

“I can’t do that. I can’t do that. I’m going to lose all these customers.” They don’t lose any or they lose two or three and usually the ones they lose are the ones they want to lose. So, you can control your demand with price. We’ve got a … you know we’re in Granger, Indiana, we’re really part of South Bend. There’s probably, I don’t know, 150,000 people. We’re not a giant metropolis but one of our mobile groomers won’t even roll into your driveway for less than $100 and she’s busy. So, you know, that’s one way to control demand is with price.

But, anyway, go back to the maintenance thing. Take care of your body, take care of yourself, take care of your mind, take some time off, don’t burn yourself out, don’t schedule more dogs than you can physically do. Six dogs a day, five days a week, in a lot of cases, you’re only going to two or three houses that day.

Joe Zuccarello: Right, multiple dog families.

John Stockman: Because most people-

Joe Zuccarello: Right? Or multiple pet families.

John Stockman: Yeah, mobile grooming lends itself to that simply because it’s so much easier for them. You might start at 8:00 in the morning and be home at 3:00 in the afternoon. I mean, that’s not uncommon.

Joe Zuccarello: And, we talked about it before, don’t think of those households as only having dogs.

John Stockman: Right, oh yeah.

Joe Zuccarello: So, it might, you might want to learn from a company or an organization like the National Cat Grooming Institute-

John Stockman: Right.

Joe Zuccarello: From Danelle German and her group about how to groom cats and, voila, you’ve just opened up a whole new channel of mobile grooming because it might actually even give you a competitive advantage. Not to, not that you’re going to be out there pounding bricks, begging for clients but what a great way, if you’re already in the driveway, oh my God.

John Stockman: Oh yeah. Well, cat owners tend to be a little bit different breed, too. There’s people that just have cats and we have cat only groomers and you get a great premium price for cats. And, going back to Ms. German, they have it’s called a Catty Shack Vac that we actually install in our vans that’s basically … go Google Catty Shack Vac, you’ll see it’s basically a thing that keeps the cat in one spot while you’re drying and grooming. It’s really pretty slick. But, you can charge a premium for cats.

The other thing is big dogs. Most mobile groomers draw the line at 35 pounds or even smaller. So, people that are young and strong, they’ll do nothing but big dogs and you can charge a premium for big dogs. People think because their dog is big it should cost more. It may take you an hour to do a lab but because a lab’s big they expect to pay more so instead of charging $80, charge them $120. They’ll pay it.

Joe Zuccarello: If they expect to pay more, let them pay more.

John Stockman: Yeah, yeah, there’s no reason you should deny them that satisfaction.

Joe Zuccarello: No, no, no. That’s great.

John Stockman: But yeah, no, it’s … yeah, going back to taking care of yourself, what you don’t want to do is burn yourself out. I mean, you started in this business because you love pets and grooming. Don’t lose your passion. Control your schedule, take care of the vehicle but also be sure to take care of yourself. That’s so important.

Joe Zuccarello: So, the seventh key to success. So, this is seven out of seven and it just happens to be very near and dear to my heart.

John Stockman: Yeah, ours too.

Joe Zuccarello: Because this podcast is brought to you by Paragon School of Pet Grooming and even our sister company, learn2groomdogs.com, which is a monthly subscription service, it is all based on this term we throw around at Paragon, which is education is everything.

John Stockman: It is.

Joe Zuccarello: And, your seventh key to success is continuing your education. So, to never stop learning and here’s, I think, one the areas that mobile groomers have to make sure that they pay attention to is that you are on your own. You have an audience of one, which is yourself, all day, every day. Right? And, sometimes that’s not for everybody but I think there’s certainly some benefits that outweigh that. But, you’re not around very many people so you’re not in a shop atmosphere. You don’t have colleagues surrounding you every day and some of you would be like, “yes, that would be awesome.” While others, I think, it could put you in a certain disadvantage so it’s necessary to focus and put effort behind continuing your education.

John Stockman: Yeah, yeah, there’s no doubt about that and that’s true with shops, as well. But, I think the thing you highlighted there with mobile is you’re on your own. So, yeah, you might want to go to grooming competitions, you want to go to seminars, you want to go to grooming shows. There’s constant training on grooming techniques. If you don’t own Notes from the Grooming Table you’re missing out, so get that.
But, there’s all kinds of … at trade shows, there’s so much there for you to learn. New products, all right, new techniques, new ways to manage the business, new ways to manage your clients, social media. I mean it just goes on and on and on and on. You know it’s important that you keep your skills polished. You’re providing a premium at home service to a client and they expect you to know the latest techniques and whatnot and all it’s going to do is make you smarter, more efficient and what comes with more efficiency? Better bottom line.

Joe Zuccarello: Right, right. And, to my point earlier too, is that we have a lot, a lot of our members of learn2groomdogscom. You can find that information on paragonschoolofpetgrooming or paragonpetschool.com or learn2groomdogs.com, because you are on your own you don’t necessarily have somebody you can ask, “hey, I’ve got a client asking for this, how do I do that?” Or “I’ve a breed or a style that the pet parent has asked me for and I’m just, I don’t remember how to do that” or “I haven’t done it in a long time.”

Well, our learn2groomdogs.com members simply pull that up on their iPad in their mobile unit and they have over 600 videos right there at their fingertips so that they’re never alone in their mobile units. So, but again, it’s a way of continuing their education.

John Stockman: Yeah, it’s great that you mentioned that. We have an option for a TV and a DVD player in all of our vans and they say, “oh, yeah, I had a TV and a DVD player in case there’s a breed I haven’t done in a while. I can pop a CD in and refresh myself.” I say, “yeah, that’s a great idea.” Of course, Oprah will never be on that, will it?

Joe Zuccarello: Oh, no, never, they’re not watching-

John Stockman: No, never.

Joe Zuccarello: They’re not watching daytime … they’re probably only watching learn2groomdogs.com.

John Stockman: Yeah, it’s basically, it’s noise in the background.

Joe Zuccarello: Yeah. And, too, I would encourage you when you’re putting TVs in these, put smart TVs so that they can connect to the internet, right? No, I heard platform, sorry. There’s lots of problems with this last part.

John Stockman: Exactly. Yeah, well, there’s a new selling technique for me. “Hey, you can plug into …

Joe Zuccarello: Yeah, you happen to know somebody. You’ve got a connection now right?

John Stockman: I do. I can help you out with that. Let me give you a website.

Joe Zuccarello: So, here’s the thing. If the Hey Joe listener audience out there, if you guys have not gleaned information from this podcast that help you, not only maybe in a previous podcast consider, do I do mobile, do I not, what career path do I go down. If you choose mobile grooming, Wag’n Tails is certainly one of the premiere choices for you to consider and these seven keys to success are a great way to put you on the right track to not only having a thriving business but also having a thriving health all around, financial, business and the like.

John, you are prepared to offer the Hey Joe listener audience kind of a really cool special offer. Just kind of exclusive, right, to the Hey Joe listener audience if they … tell them about the offer and how to redeem it.

John Stockman: Yeah, I just … before we get to that I just want to say, look if you’re a mobile groomer now and you don’t have a Wag’n Tails, if you need some help, don’t hesitate to call us. We promote the grooming industry. We want to take care of groomers. So, it doesn’t matter if you have a Wag’n Tails or not. And, if you do have a Wag’n Tails and you didn’t buy it from us, it doesn’t matter. Get with us, get registered, we’ll get you into our database. We’ll take care of you with parts, service, sales. We’ll consult with you. We’re basically like a franchise. We just don’t stick our hand in your pocket every month. So, we’ll help you launch, operate, grow, whatever you need, we’re happy to do it because we want to help groomers.

So, part of this, what Joe mentioned, our incentive or our freebie is, anybody that buys a new Wag’n Tails van between now and the end of the year, we will give you a free Christensen Kool Dry. It’s a $486 value and we will do that absolutely free. You just have to remember the code, the secret code, share it with everybody, you don’t have to just get it off the podcast. But, please encourage your friends to listen to Hey Joe. But if you remember the phrase, Lucky Leo, you get that $486 Christensen Kool Dry installed in your van absolutely at no charge and just so you know, Leo is our … he’s Leo the Wonderdog. He’s our mascot. Amy, our marketing manager brings Leo in every day.
As soon as I get off the phone here and open the door he’ll be sitting here, waiting on a treat, so-

Joe Zuccarello: He’s like, what are you doing in there, man? Who you talking to?

John Stockman: Yeah, he’s like, why is your door closed?

Joe Zuccarello: And, I hear my name, right?

John Stockman: Yeah.

Joe Zuccarello: So, again-

John Stockman: So Lucky Leo is your key to a Christensen Kool Dry at no charge.

Joe Zuccarello: Well, you know what? That’s a very generous offer and I hope that the Hey Joe listener audience, lots of them take you up on that offer. Thanks again, John, for helping us out. This is-

John Stockman: Happy to do it. Happy to do it. Love doing it.

Joe Zuccarello: I know that our audience today is going to benefit by your information and you know if they choose this as a career path for them, boy oh boy, I don’t know that there’s a whole lot that can go wrong.

And, thanks to our audience, again, the Hey Joe listener audience out there for all of your great questions. We bring these subject matter experts to you as a result of you asking us to find these experts and you do that by asking us questions. And, the easiest way to do that is simply emailing us at heyjoequestions@paragonpetschool.com. Again, it’s a simple email to heyjoequestions@paragonpetschool.com. And, you might just hear your topic discussed with an industry expert in the near future and we highly, highly, highly encourage to share the podcast with your team members that you work with, friends and family in the industry and anybody that you think should know about the podcast and who would benefit by listening to it. John, thanks again, man, I really appreciate it and I know we’ll have future podcasts coming up together.

John Stockman: Happy to do, look forward to the next one and if you want to know more about mobile grooming you can either go to the website, give us a call or get with Joe and we’ll do another Hey Joe and drill down into the details.

Joe Zuccarello: Fantastic. John, have yourself a great day. I appreciate your help.

John Stockman: You too.

About Joe

Joe Zuccarello is VP of the Paragon School of Pet Grooming, leaders in grooming education on campus and online. He possesses more than three decades of experience in the pet grooming, product development and pet business consulting disciplines.
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