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What is at the Root of All Success?

rrimageEveryone loves do a good job. We like the way it feels to excel and to please other people. For some, doing well is a starting point – they yearn for more.  Do you know the steps and work it takes to go from good to great?

What are your goals? Do you admire today’s top competitive pet stylists? Maybe you have your sights on certification. Do you have a dream of someday becoming a certified master groomer or pet stylist? Maybe you hope to become a member of GroomTeam USA or represent your country in world team competition?

Maybe your aspirations have nothing to do with competitive styling. Maybe your goal is winning the trust and respect of pet owners, turning them into regular clients.

They’re all worthy goals – and guess what? It’s not as hard as you think. There is no complicated recipe. But there is a secret.

Focus on the fundamentals.

Success is all about the fundamentals. The fundamentals are the little things. The ordinary things. And often, they are the tedious things. But to be the best you must master them. You must become a master of those ordinary, everyday tasks. With every act of greatness, whether in sports, business, the arts, or in pet grooming, the best of the best achieve extraordinary feats by doing ordinary things with amazing consistency, commitment, and focus.

c00aa89c0f35c77225dcdc099b7a0f84What are the fundamentals in dog grooming?

It means perfecting the core skills: bathing, drying, brushing, fluffing, and dematting. It’s also clipping, scissoring, as well as understanding basic structure and anatomy. It means having solid and safe handling skills.

As a professional pet groomer and stylist, we get to practice these skills all the time. In fact, many of us practice them every single day. World-class pet stylists don’t master their craft by working every day on perfect dogs with fabulous coats in perfect condition. For many of them, the only time they work on a “perfect dog” is in the ring – and under the pressure of competition. Even then, there is no such thing as a perfect dog. Every dog has its flaws – even the perfect ones.

Top stylists know it takes years of practice with everyday pets to master the fundamentals. Winning doesn’t just happen on the day of the competition. Winning is a result of dedication and hard work. The trophy is a product of training, study, and sacrifice. You cannot earn a high grade in certification testing on testing day, alone. Winning or earning high grades on your practical skills tests starts in every bathtub and on every grooming table, every day. There is no such thing as an overnight success. Typically, it takes years of uncountable numbers of hours of dedication to the craft.

Practice, in itself, is not enough. In order to truly succeed you need to follow this rule: Perfect Practice Makes Perfect. If you are not practicing the fundamentals correctly, you’re wasting your time. Clients will not return if your work is sub-par. Awards will not be given. High test scores will be out of reach.

514_400x400_NoPeelWith so many variables with pet grooming, where do you start? What coaching or training technique should you trust? How do you learn the RIGHT skills?

Start at the ground floor and learn from the masters. The information is out there. You will find it in:

  • magazines
  • books
  • clinics
  • workshops
  • seminars
  • schools
  • trade shows
  • conformation dog shows
  • obedience classes
  • grooming competitions
  • videos
  • blogs

Research online. Talk to vendors and manufacturers. Work with a mentor, a coach, a consultant. Look. Listen. Learn.  But don’t blindly trust everything you find – check references whenever possible. Today, there is a lot of information out there – unfortunately not all of it is good information! Talk to the experts to make sure the material you are learning is correct and safe.

As you learn, take it one small step at a time. Dissect every step. Break it down. For every technique there are micro steps to learn to perfect any skill. Study those micro steps.

stairsStart at the very beginning just like with a long flight of stairs. You start at the bottom, taking one step at a time. Mastering the fundamentals is a lot like a staircase. Jumping ahead or skipping steps will not get you ahead any faster. In fact, missing steps is way more detrimental to a career than staying on course dealing with each step moving up the flight of stairs.

With every step along the way, you are creating a knowledge base. It will continue to grow with your career. It is paramount for any pet professional to have fabulous pet handling skills to build trust with our furry clients while keeping them safe. Another area that is critical to any successful pet groomer or stylist is learning the finer details of structure and anatomy.

The key is to focus on improving each day, taking the necessary steps. If you incrementally improve each day, each week, each month, each quarter – by the end of the year you will see remarkable results and growth. Over time, by committing to this process, the best develop their skills and enhance their performance as they strive for excellence and achieving perfect execution.

If you want to be at the very top of your game, to become one of the best professional pet groomers/stylists in your town, in your state, in your country, you need to practice perfect fundamentals. Every. Single. Day. You don’t need to have perfect pets to make this happen. Grooming everyday pets offers an abundant opportunity to practice the fundamentals.

Your success doesn’t necessarily mean winning the award or scoring a high grade. Sometimes success means having a full appointment book with happy customers. That’s what truly makes a successful grooming business.

What steps do YOU take? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy trimming!

~ Melissa


Help! I Have Too Many Clients!

Did you know about half of all small businesses fail within the first four years? It’s a scary statistic, but fortunately, you’re not one of the fallen. Your books are full. You’re grooming steadily all day long. The phones are ringing off the hook – it’s a dream come true, right?

There can sometimes be a dark side to all of this success. Do you feel like no matter how hard you work, how efficiently you groom, you just can’t get ahead? Is your first available appointment still three weeks out – or more? Is your cancellation list getting longer and longer?

I’ll bet you’re tired.   

Stressed.

Frustrated.

Wondering why you ever opened your own business.

After all, wasn’t it supposed to be fun and satisfying to finally be your own boss? Yet somehow, grooming all those cute little fluffy puppies has lost its appeal.

Sound familiar? I’ve been there more times than I care to admit!

What are you going to do?

The easy solution would be to hire another groomer. Unfortunately, finding someone talented, reliable, and a good fit for your team can be quite challenging. Most grooming schools have far more job requests than their graduates could fill. Placing an ad in any type of help wanted advertising outlet yields only crickets when it comes to finding anybody even remotely qualified to groom dogs and cats.

This is an age-old problem. I don’t know of a single successful grooming business that has not faced this dilemma at some point.

Don’t fret. You have options. Some are more long-term solutions. Others can be implemented instantly for immediate relief.

  1. Train your own groomers and stylists from scratch.
  2. Delegate basic tasks.
  3. Hire an assistant.
  4. Become exclusive by raising your prices, which will instantly lighten your client load.

Training your own groomers and stylists from the ground up is a great long-term solution – and sometimes the only option. It’s not a quick fix, but it is something you will want to keep in the back of your mind for the future. If you opt to go this route, keep in mind it will typically take six months to a year to train to someone who can independently groom dogs.

If you are a salon owner, my guess is you wear many hats when it comes to running your business. What if you could have someone else do some of the NON-grooming related tasks? Hire someone full or part-time to do the tasks you really don’t need to be doing. Things like:

  • cleaning
  • laundry services
  • running errands
  • bookkeeping
  • payroll
  • data entry

Delegate anything you can to assist with the smooth running of your business – or your home – which is not directly related to grooming.

Training a grooming assistant is a great option. Having someone to help with the more elementary tasks of grooming pets isn’t as time-consuming or difficult as training a full-fledged groomer. Yet, a well-trained assistant can almost double your productivity. A large bulk of the time grooming dogs is eaten up in the wet room.

Yes, training an assistant takes time but you will make that time up quickly! It will go even faster if you utilize the Core Skills videos in the Learn2GroomDogs.com online library. Combine that with select sections from the first 80 pages of Notes From the Grooming Table – Second Edition, and you have a winning recipe for success. Let’s face it, half of the time spent grooming dogs is spent in the bathing, drying, and fluffing areas.

There are other benefits to having an assistant work with you. They can jump in to help with other simple tasks when you really need another set of hands. Wouldn’t it be great to have someone who could:

  • help handle a challenging pet
  • answer the phone
  • run dogs and do potty breaks
  • help with customers
  • clean and sanitize
  • do laundry

…the list could go on and on.

Many successful stylists just don’t want to deal with a staff. They want to keep it simple. Uncomplicated. Stress-free. Yet if you have way too many clients, the demands on your time and your sanity will be quickly tested.

If the other three options are not good fits for you, maybe raising your prices and becoming exclusive is the best option. If you stop and do the math, it can be pretty enlightening. Raising your prices by $5 to $10 per dog will weed out your client load almost instantly, freeing up your time – and giving you time to breathe.

When you feel you could work twenty-four hours per day, seven days a week, and still not have sufficient time to get everything done – it’s time for a change. Situations like this are what contribute to safety issues, affect your personal life – maybe even your health.

Success is a great thing as long as you manage the growing pains of your business. If you don’t, the business is going to be running you instead of you running your company.

If you are one of the success stories with an abundance of pooches (or felines) coming through your doors, congratulations! Remember – managing growth is just as important as creating an amazing service for your customers. If you are feeling frustrated and stressed out, make the change you feel best fits your situation. Get off that work overload treadmill. Once you do, you might even enjoy your business again!

Has this ever happened to you? What did you do? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa


How to Avoid Stress & Burnout

Professional stress and burnout is the number one thing that stops a successful career in its tracks. So how do you keep it from happening? How do you keep your job fresh? Fun? Rewarding?

Here are a few of my top suggestions.

Difficult Dogs

Dealing with difficult dogs or cats is one of the biggest challenges we face every day. You know the feeling in your gut when you see them on your appointment book. Those feelings of dread, anger, and sometimes fear – those negative emotions that get associated with one pet or client. You begin fretting about them right away, don’t you?

I don’t know many people who enjoy dealing with an uncooperative pet. One of the easiest ways to minimize your stress level is to simply eliminate them from your schedule.

There are plenty of nice, well-behaved dogs in the world to groom. I strongly suggest not doing any more than you can handle confidently and safely. Your skill level should dictate how much you can comfortably take on. Typically, the more experience you have, the more challenging the pet you can safely handle. To stay safe, know your limits – and the limits of the pet entrusted to you.

Here is the rating scale I’ve used to rate a dog’s (or cat’s) personality.

#1: Perfect angel on the grooming table. We love these pets!

#2: Bouncy and wiggly. Does not respect rules and boundaries but is not mean or nasty. They are a bit of a handful to deal with on the grooming table.

#3: Will bite when provoked (tugging on mats, cleaning ears, and trimming nails). With the exception of these trigger points, the pet can tolerate the rest of the grooming process.

#4: Will bite – even the smallest thing sets this personality type off. They cannot be trusted. A well-fitted muzzle can be helpful – and many times, necessary. They require a seasoned and experienced handler/groomer to keep both the pet and the person safe.

#5: Dangerous and unpredictable. Eyes will typically glow red or green. Good candidate for veterinarian-supervised grooming with a sedative.

You should consider charging extra for handling difficult pets. They take more time to groom – and time is money. Let your fee reflect it.

Difficult owners

This one can be a little tricky. If they are just mildly annoying, deal with it professionally but don’t put any more effort into the client than needed to keep them at bay. If they are rude and nasty, most likely they are just that way all the time – that’s how they go through life. I would do a great job for them, just like with any other client, but I would not go out of my way to do anything “special.”

If they are difficult to deal with AND neglect their pooch or do not respect my time, I would charge extra for that.

Just as we rate our dogs, at times we will rate difficult owners.

I have no problem referring #4 or #5 rated pets and/or owners to another groomer who might be more successful in meeting their needs (i.e. – always fire them professionally and politely).

Lateness

Nothing is more frustrating than a client who does not respect our time! We give them a 15-minute window to arrive, either to  arrive to their scheduled appointment or to pick up their pet. If they do not arrive within that window, it counts as a strike against them. For arrivals, we have a three strike rule…

  • Strike one: we let them off with a mild warning.
  • Strike two: we remind them how much we value our time. If they can’t value it as well, they will need to look for another stylist.
  • Strike three: we fire them.

If they do not pick up their pet prior to our posted closing times, we give a few extra minutes. As soon as we know they are running late, we try to get in touch with the owner. If the owner calls and can give us a reasonable estimated pick-up time, my staff has the option of waiting for them if it’s beyond closing time. I will post a hefty late pick-up fee (in 5-minute intervals) but leave it up to the employee to charge it. If they waited, they get to keep the entire late pick up fee as long as they collect it. If we can’t reach them or have not heard from them, we’ll bed the pet down for the night. We leave a pleasant note on the door for the client. We simply state our hours and let them know we look forward to seeing them in the morning. I have heard many salons charge an overnight fee, too.

5 More Quick Suggestions

Each one of these could be a blog topic on its own. However, for right now, I’ll just toss these out there for you to ponder.

  1. Keep learning to make your career interesting while allowing you to expand your career opportunities.
  2. Take time for yourself and your family.
  3. Maintain physical health and wellness through diet and exercise.
  4. Learn to say NO when your schedule becomes overwhelming.
  5. Charge enough for your services. Avoiding living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Don’t forget the little things that made this career attractive to you in the first place – never forget WHY you followed this career path. This is a career with UNLIMITED potential for those willing to stay focused. Work hard – and never stop learning. How cool is that?

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

Go online and tell us what you think on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.


Am I a Good Boss?

Welcome to my blog!  For the next few weeks, my marketing expert, Joelle Asmondy, will be filling in for me while I work on a large project.  Joelle is a whiz with marketing.  I can’t wait to see which helpful tidbits she shares with you!  Enjoy!

Let’s take a little poll:

  • How many of you own or run a salon?
  • Which of you have a degree in business or have taken any business classes?
  • Has anyone taken any management classes?

That sounds about right.

One of the best things about going to trade shows is meeting people. I get to talk to people from all over the country and I love it when they tell me their stories. We talk about dogs (of course), dog books (um, yeah!), and working with dogs (why not?). It’s a great way for me to stay in touch with our clients’ needs and find out what people are really thinking about.

Let me share a conversation that I have all the time…

“I became a groomer because I love dogs. At first, I just had a few clients. It started with friends and family, then their friends heard about me, and I got even busier. I got to the point where I had to hire someone just to keep up! Now I groom, book appointments, answer phones, run my own business, AND I have (one, two, three…) groomer(s) working for me!”

Sound familiar?

I love that so many dog grooming businesses have grown in such an organic way. It starts with a passion, grows because we’re needed, and thrives because we’re good at what we do. Our clients keep coming back because they know we love their pets and care about their health and safety.

The flip side to this is that very few people who own or manage these businesses have any formal training in supervising employees. We suddenly find ourselves in the role of “boss” simply because we needed help. For many, it’s a natural fit and the transition is painless. For others, the change is more challenging.

The question of the day is, “Are You a Good Boss?” The answer may surprise you.

I reached out to folks from the industry and asked them about the best qualities of their managers. Many of the answers were similar. Let’s look at the answers together and see if we can understand what it really means to be a good boss.

“I’ve grown a lot by working here.”

Do you take the time to offer praise as well as constructive criticism? In busy salons, it can become easy to fall into the habit of communicating like our furry customers – we bark at each other instead of talking. Don’t let a hectic schedule become an excuse for bad manners or meanness. Remember, you’re not just running a business, you’re building a culture. Do you want yours to be team-oriented or hostile and withdrawn? Things don’t get done any faster or better with rudeness than with courtesy.

“She’s willing to try new ideas.”

If you want employees who step up and really help out, you have to be open to trying new things. “That’s the way we’ve always done it,” will quickly kill initiative. Employees who feel like they have input into bettering the process tend to stick around longer and contribute more to the overall business. After all, isn’t that what you need?

“He’s organized.”

If you are constantly running late, running out of stock, and running out of patience, you could be running yourself right out of business. Let your team help you get things in order. Delegate duties that are well-suited to them. It empowers them and also takes a few things off your plate.

“She encourages me.”

I once worked for an amazing supervisor who motivated me just by being encouraging. I tried a new sales approach once, and it went so well that she had me present it to others in our district. Knowing that she believed in me did more than compliment me, it made me want to work even harder!

“He tells me how I can improve in a positive way.”

Two words: constructive criticism. It’s easy to tell someone when they do something wrong. If you want change that sticks, it takes a little more work.

  • Use the sandwich technique: tell them what you liked, tell them what needs to change, then offer positive feedback.
  • Be specific: saying something is done wrong is not helpful. WHAT was wrong about it? HOW should it be done next time? WHY is it important that it be done right?
  • Don’t attack the person, attack the problem: telling someone they’re terrible at trimming nails hasn’t solved anything. Look at the problem – in this case, quicking too many nails – and look at technique. If a person isn’t trained properly, they can’t be blamed for doing something wrong.
  • Don’t assume they know what you mean: it may sound simple to you, but it may not seem that obvious to them. It’s impossible to over-communicate.

“We never stop trying to get better.”

Complacency is the enemy of good business. Successful businesses are always trying to become better, more efficient, and less wasteful.

“She says, “thank you.”

Those are magic words, aren’t they? Thank you for staying late. Thank you for helping me carry in the supplies. Thank you for helping that elderly client to her car. Recognizing effort boosts morale and encourages them to keep giving their best.

“He tells me what is needed and doesn’t expect me to read his mind.”

“I shouldn’t have to tell them…”

“It’s just plain old common sense!”

Work on removing these phrases from your vocabulary. Just because you’ve done something a thousand times doesn’t mean other people understand it as thoroughly as you do. Take a minute, take a breath, and give them the benefit of the doubt.

“She recognizes effort even if we fall short of a goal.”

All success is success. It’s ok to be excited about progress even if you didn’t get quite all the way there. Learn from the experience and try again. Sometimes shared enthusiasm or experience is what’s needed to really make things happen.

Whether you became a manager by choice or by coincidence, it’s important to know how to be a good boss. Building a team and a business takes work – and you don’t have to do it alone. By developing a positive culture, you’re helping to make a better work environment that will attract better employees, will help keep your best staff, and will make your days a lot better.

What topics would you like us to cover?  Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us.

Click here for a complete video list to make searching Learn2GroomDogs.com even easier! 

Make it a great day!

~Joelle Asmondy


6 Qualities Successful Pet Grooming Professionals Have in Common

The path of every successful bather, groomer, or pet stylist is slightly different. However, there are common threads that tie the most successful pet professionals together.

Here are the six common qualities that set top performers apart.

1. They are positive.

A positive attitude helps you deal more easily with daily affairs. It brings brightness into your life, making it easier to avoid worries and negative thinking.When you’re positive, you have a clear, calm mind that is open to possibilities and see opportunities where others see nothing.

And as a bonus, if your attitude is strong enough, it becomes contagious. Contagious to clients. To co-workers. To pets. Everyone. It’s as if you radiate positive energy around you.

2. They are learners.

Wikipedia defines lifelong learning as, “The ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons.”

It is the non-stop development of skills and knowledge of a pet professional, at any level. It occurs through experiences during a lifetime. These experiences could be formal (training, tutoring, mentorship, apprenticeship, etc.) or informal (experiences and situations).

Learning is the key to achieving a person’s full potential. Learning does not stop once you get out of school. Folks who continue to learn are able to transform their lives. They become more successful at home, more successful with their families, more successful at work, and more successful within their salons and work environments.

3. They are always moving.

Successful pet professionals are achievers. You aren’t going to see successful pet grooming teams dragging around the shop. Nope. They are buzzing with activity. They are constantly on task, on schedule, and looking for a way to shave moments off any task without sacrificing quality. Their hands and feet are never still.

They are constantly in motion. When I hear the term “occupational athletes,” I think of highly successful team members in any grooming department.

4. They are curious.

Curiosity might have killed the cat, but a new study by psychologists suggests that curiosity is very good for people. If you want a rewarding career – be curious.

Curiosity in your job can be a powerful tool. It does not matter which department you are in or if you wear all the hats in your business. If you can find different ways to stay hungry for knowledge and continue to be a lifelong learner, you will find your career to be much more rewarding.

The more curious you are, the more possibilities you will have throughout your lifetime.  Open your eyes and look around.

5. They are persistent.

Being persistent after it seems like everything has failed is one of the hardest things to do. You just want to give up. Give up on the dog. Give up on a technique. Give up on yourself.

When trying to be persistent, it is important that you have a goal in mind. Whether it’s getting that dog squeaky clean, the clipper work baby butt smooth, a velvet finish on a hand scissor dog, or just trying to add an extra dog to your roster on a consistent basis, don’t give up. Even if you don’t see immediate results, keep trying. Keep pushing yourself. Having an end result in mind will keep you motivated, which builds persistence.

6. They are passionate.  

If you want to be successful at your job and move up, you need to be passionate about your work. You need to be motivated and driven to be the best you can be. Passionate people love their work.

Passion, motivation, drive. Call it what you want. Bottom line: it’s that self-driven attitude towards your job and your work that can help lead you down the path to success.

 

Passion is an emotion that comes from within you. It’s your enthusiasm. Your motivation. Your drive.

I guarantee that others will be positively impacted by your personal passion towards pets. Passion does not go unnoticed. People will see how well you do your job and your attitude towards it. They will see when a task is hard and you don’t give in – when you apply yourself even more to overcome it. They will notice your drive and your motivation and consider how you would do in another position.

Becoming stagnant in a career is boring. The work gets sloppy. Customer service quality goes down. The wonderful part of being involved with the pet industry is that there is no limit to your personal growth. I love being surrounded by people that have these six qualities firmly developed in their lives. They are energizing and refreshing to be around. Their energy is contagious!

How many of these six traits to you have? How many do you feel you could improve on? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

 

Happy trimming!

~Melissa


7 Qualities of High Quality Pet Stylists

blog photoI’ve been working within the pet grooming industry for a very long time. Frightfully, probably long before many of you were even born. I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by top end pet stylists, especially in the past 5 years being on the film set of Learn2GroomDogs.com. All of our 40+ Training Partners are at the top of their game. They are simply some of the best professional pet stylists in the world.

As I work beside these talented stylists, I’ve seen a few very common threads. Outstanding pet stylists are tenacious. They push themselves constantly by developing a deeper understanding of the grooming process:

  • any type of dog (or cat)
  • with any coat type
  • of any size
  • using any technique

Then add in:

  • many times the pets are in poor condition
  • the pets often have a less than perfect temperament and the stylists still get the job done well

These exceptional pet stylists don’t entertain frustration. They have the ability to see through the dirty, messy mound of fur. They see the potential of what could be. With their ever growing set of skills, they see beauty Blog quoteof what the finished product could be – not what is on the grooming table before the process begins (for more on this topic, read my blog, Begin with the End in Mind). They feel the creative challenge calling their name. The only question left in their minds is not IF they can do it – but HOW they will accomplish the task in a safe and comfortable manner for the pet.

Here are seven qualities I’ve seen in almost all high-quality pet stylists:

  • Appreciation of Knowledge

High-quality pet stylists know, the more you learn – the more you want to learn and the more you will earn. Building a strong foundation of knowledge insures that you will always do the best work possible. As your knowledge base improves, you will immediately be able to apply that knowledge to every pet you groom. Even if it’s a #7 shave off, a knowledgeable pet stylist will always try to improve the dog’s appeal. They draw upon a vast array of learning experiences to complete a task – and most of it is not learned in school!

  • Value High Quality Products & Tools

High-quality pet stylists know their products and tools will make or break them. If the shampoo does not leave the coat squeaky clean, you will never get a quality finish on the coat. Coats need to be dried with the correct type of dryer using the correct method for optimum coat preparation. It’s impossible to produce a velvet finish with dull blades or shears. It does not matter what product or tool we are discussing. High-quality pet stylists know they need to invest in the best. Period.

  • Firmly Understand Time is Money

High-quality pet stylists know time is money. There are always options for the pet based on the condition of the coat, the pet’s temperament, the amount of time you have on your schedule, and the amount of money the client is willing to spend. High-quality pet stylists instantly know how to weigh out the variables and select the best option.

  • Self Confidence

High-quality pet stylists are confident in their abilities. Yet, at the same token they are humble. Even though they’re highly confident they know there is still room for personal growth. They freely share their knowledge with others while they continue to build their skills to an even higher level.

  • Understand Canine and/or Feline Psychology

High-quality pet stylists are keen observers. They understand canine and feline body language. Animals are pretty transparent when it comes to their behavior. There are always clues to an animal’s behavior, even if it is subtle. A high-quality pet stylist will always try to gain the trust and understanding of the pet they are working on.

  • Compassion for the Pet

High-quality pet stylists are compassionate to the needs of the pet. They understand each pet is an individual. They all have different tolerances to standard grooming and practices. High-quality pet stylists will always live by the Golden Rule – maintaining a calm, cool, and collected composure at all times.

  • Always Push to Improve

High-quality pet stylists always push themselves to improve. Once they have mastered one technique, one skill, one breed, they always know there’s more to learn just around the corner. Learning and improving is a never ending journey.

Outstanding pet stylists are humble, talented, practical, and passionate – sincere with exceptional character. They go after the goal of being the best they can be and they don’t give up. For them, there is always room for improvement. They raise the bar for themselves and set new and better standards for our industry.

What skills would you like to hone to become the best you can possibly be?

Happy Trimming!

-Melissa


Build Compassion Toward Your Clients

blogrWhat does it take to build a robust following of grooming clients? Simply put – compassion.

I’ve been in this industry a long time. I’ve seen my fair share of groomers pass though my employment.   I’ve had groomers and stylists that were phenomenal. They were super speedy. They could make a dog look dynamite in no time. Their advanced grooming skills were flawless.

…But they had personalities of snakes.

I’ve had groomers that were far from top level stylists. Their work would be considered “fair.” They got the dogs neat and clean, but they had not mastered advance styling skills. There was very little hand-scissoring, no hand-stripping, and their knowledge of correct breed profile trimming was limited. What they did have was compassion. They simply loved helping people and their pets

Who do you think had the fullest schedule?

Here’s the #1 secret ingredient to maintaining a full appointment book: compassion. It’s caring sincerely about a client’s needs, wants, concerns, and desires.

Compassion builds trust. I wish could single-out quality as being the most important ingredient to a successful pet profession, but it isn’t. It is a close second.

Throughout my years, the professional who truly cared about the pet was always the easiest to book. Their days were always the fullest with repeat customers.

When you have compassion, you’re putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. You honestly feel for them. You want to help them solve their problems in a kind and caring way.

So, the next time a client walks through your door – no matter how chaotic your day is going – stop and breathe. Then smile at the client. Remind yourself you are in business to HELP people and their pets.

Here is an important tip that helps create considerate customer service: ask questions. When you ask questions, you show compassion and concern for the needs of the client and their pet. It helps build rapport. Make sure your questions are sincere and to the point.

Asking questions also allows you to get valuable information from the client. This line of observations and questions work exceptionally well when communicating with a customer.

  1. Be observant of clients as they walk through the door. Let common sense guide your line of questions.
  2. Find the problem. Ask basic questions like, “Were you thinking of a thorough bath and brush for Fluffy today, or more of a full haircut?” to find the problem.  Let the client talk. LISTEN.
  3. Gather clues from what the client tells you and what you observe.
  4. Offer limited choices as you help the client solve the problem.
  5. Guide the questions in five areas of the pet:
    • overall body
    • head
    • ears
    • legs/feet
    • tail

I hate to break this to you, but a large part of being a successful pet stylist IS a personality contest. Clients are experts on knowing if they feel valued. Make them feel special. Ask question and then LISTEN to what they say. Active listening skills let a customer know you care about them and their pet.

If you want to have an unstoppable career – become both talented AND compassionate towards your clients and their pets. Not only is that combo financially rewarding – it’s extremely gratifying too!

-Happy trimming,

Melissa

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Rating Dog Personalities

blogrYou have a new client on the books. It’s a Lhasa/Maltese mix – or in the new world of designer dogs, it’s a “Lhatese.” The client arrives precisely 15 minutes late. She’s dressed to the nines and everything matches… even the dog.

The dog’s name? You guessed it…

…Precious.

You know you’re in trouble.

If you’re a one groomer salon, you can keep the personalities of all your canine clients in your head. You know any dog named Precious is far from… precious.

But what if you start expanding your salon? What if you bring on a new bather? Or maybe you have an assistant handling your appointments? Or maybe you have an inexperienced groomer joining your team.?

Wouldn’t it be helpful to know the personality rating of the dogs scheduled for the day?

Here’s a rating system that I’ve been using for years in my salons. It’s been extremely helpful in many ways:

  • It allows us to clearly evaluate the personalities of our canine clients.
  • it opens up communication with our customers.
  • it allows us to assign more challenging pets to the appropriate groomer.
  • the groomer clearly knows s/he will need to be on high alert with certain pets.

This is how I rate dogs. Simply put, we rate them one through five. It’s worked exceptionally well for years.

Our bathers, groomers, stylists, and students know what to expect from the pet. Even our clients know our rating system. It allows us to have an open conversation with them about their pet’s attitude towards grooming. Many customers are even anxious to see the paperwork to see if there dog has progressed to a more positive level.

Melissa’s Pet Personality Rating System:

  1. The Perfect Angel – This is the dog you love to see. It’s 100% cooperative with the entire grooming process.
  2. The Dancer – This dog is not aggressive but it does not hold still. You’re constantly working on a moving target.
  3. Easily Irritated – This dog will bite if you do something that it does not care for: trimming toenails, cleaning ears, dematting, high velocity drying. This dog might need to be muzzled for things they dislike. They generally respond well to an experienced pet professional.
  4. Angry – This is a dog that does not like the grooming process. One. Bit. You cannot trust them. Typically, they can be done safely if handled by an experienced professional. That person needs to be confident when dealing with an aggressive dog. They need to be authoritative and respectful of the pet while balancing firm but gentle handling techniques. Most dogs that fall in this category require muzzling.
  5. Unsafe – This is a dog whose eyes will glow red or green. Is extremely dangerous for most pet professionals to deal with safely. There is no question that given the opportunity, they will bite and/or attack. The dog or the groomer is at a very high risk of being injured. Personally, this is a dog I would fire. I would refer to a facility that could provide a mild sedative – under veterinary supervision – to take the edge off the grooming process.

By using this rating system, we have a clear way to rate the personalities of all the pets that come through our grooming doors. Using the system also means I can communicate with my team, my teams can communicate with each other, and we can openly communicate with our customers.

This time-tested system has worked fabulously for my team. I hope it will work well for your team, too. Now, next time “Precious” comes striding through your door, you’ll know what to do!

Happy trimming!

~Melissa

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How to Get Your Clipper Work Smooth – Like a Summer Hay Field

blogrIt’s been over 35 years since that first time. I still remember standing in awe, watching a talented pet groomer give a dog a haircut. She handled her clippers with ease. The long fur fell away like a hot knife through butter. The end result was smooth and gorgeous. And she was fast – super fast. She made the whole process seems so simple.

The first time I tried, I quickly discovered it was not simple. Those initial attempts were pretty pathetic. Saying my first efforts were rough and choppy would be polite. There were long tufts hanging out everywhere. I was frustrated beyond belief.

I was determined to master the skill. After all, the groomer I had been watching proved it could be done. It was simple – I just had to focus and figure it out.

Fast forward a few years of practice and a couple hundred dogs later, and I could make any dog look amazing. When I did a simple haircut on a pet, the fur fell away like a hot knife through butter. The end result was smooth and appealing. I could finish dogs in no time. I’d gotten very efficient with my clippers.

It took years of hard work. There were years of standing on my feet until they throbbed, working until my hands and shoulders ached. However, my pain can be your gain. Here are a few tips to enhance your speed when it comes to simple, low maintenance haircuts:

  • Use the most powerful clipper you can afford and are comfortable holding. Duel speeds or variable speed clippers are great options.
  • Work with the natural lay of the coat. You can work with or against the grain. If you reverse clip, the end result will leave that fur approximately two blade lengths shorter than working with the natural lay of the coat.
  • For a large majority of low maintenance trims done with a #4F, #5F, or a #7F blade with the grain, you will go over the pet three times before it’s really smooth.
  1. The first time removes the bulk.
  2. The second time takes out the high spots.
  3. The third time erases what you missed.
  • The strokes are long and smooth. They overlap slightly. I often tell students to think about a hayfield. The farmer wants to be as efficient as possible – but he doesn’t want to miss anything, either. Most farmers work in nice, neat rows as they cut hay, slightly overlapping each row to ensure they don’t miss any portion of the field. Think about the dog’s body in the same manner. It’s a hayfield. Your clipper is the tractor. You want it done right… and you want to be done before the dinner bell rings.
  • When clipping the legs, remember the actual contact of the cutting blade is minimal due to the shape of the surface. It’s round – like a pencil. Only a few teeth will make contact with the surface as you run the clipper down the leg. Thus, on legs you need multiple passes to get the same effect as three passes on the larger flat surface of the body. You can clearly see this relationship by simply running a blade down your own finger and looking at the blade’s point of contact.
  • Back brush. Back brush. Back brush!

You’ll always get a smoother cut on a dog that is clean and the coat has been fluffed. Once you make the initial pass to remove the bulk of the long coat, it’s time to pick up the brush. Back brush the entire dog and go over it a second time. On the third pass, again gently back brush the entire area that needs final attention. Did you get that? Back brush!

When do you know you are done? You are done clipping when there is no more coat coming off the dog after it is been washed, dried, and effectively back brushed. Period.

Clipper work on a low maintenance haircut style can be extremely frustrating for new groomer. But once you master the clipper and understand how to work with the coat, it becomes second nature. It becomes simple. You become fast. And you will be able to perform the haircut safely with great precision.  You can do it. It just takes focus.

 

Happy trimming!

~Melissa

 

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How to be an Indispensable Groomer’s Assistant

blogrThis always shocks me. A competitor or a workshop participant presents me with a DIRTY DOG for evaluation. A dirty dog?! No joke – it happens all the time.

Nails are not trimmed correctly… coats are not dried properly or completely… or worse yet, there are still mats and tangles left in the coat. These are all constant problems I see all the time. Not only at in the ring or at hands-on events, but in salons with every day grooming too.

To me, bathing and drying are the most critical parts of any groom. One bather can make or break your entire grooming department.

Here are 7 skills I look for in an indispensable groomers’ assistant (AKA the bather!) All 7 of these skills must be MASTERED in if you want to be highly valued in your grooming salon, if you want to move ahead in your career, or before you can you gather loads of glowing clients.

1.  Be able to identify popular breeds

Anybody working professionally with pets needs to be able to identify the top 15 or 20 breeds that regularly come into your salon. It’s the fastest way for groomers to be able to communicate to one another.

2.  Be able to handle pets safely and compassionately

How many times have you heard others (or maybe even yourself) say, “This dog is driving me nuts!” Impatient treatment of a pet is never acceptable. If you lose control, you can bet that you won’t have clients for long. Being able to understand canine body language is job requirement #1. If you are going to win the pet’s trust and cooperation, you must be able to speak its language. It will keep you and the pet safe. It will also make the entire experience much more enjoyable for all parties.

3.  Understand the many different coat types found on individual pets

Each coat type has special needs that need to be addressed in the bathing and drying process to get the best results. A Beagle has different bathing and drying needs than a Standard Poodle. The same holds true with a coat on a Golden Retriever or an Airedale Terrier. A talented bather will instantly be able to identify dogs that possess simple coats or dogs that are going to be time-consuming and a challenge.

4.  Bathe the dogs until their coats squeak

If they don’t squeak, they are not clean.

Period.

This is absolutely the foundation of every fabulous grooming job. I cannot stress its importance enough. There are many products on the market to help achieve superior results in only one or two baths. Even if you use the best shampoos on the market, the dog will not get squeaky clean unless they are rinsed thoroughly. Rinse until the water runs clear and you hear the ‘squeak’ when you push the water through the coat. And not just the easy to see or reach parts. Get soap and water to the undercarriage, under the ears, and the special parts. If the whole dog isn’t clean – it’s still dirty. Nothing wastes time or money more than having to re-bathe a dog because you didn’t do the job right the first time. There’s an old saying: if you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over? Get it right the first time.

5.  Dry the coat to perfection

Most of the time, this will mean utilizing a form of active drying. There are several drying methods and combinations to choose from, based on the coat type, trim, and the pets’ tolerance. Incorrect techniques or careless attention to drying will waste more time than almost anything else in the grooming process. In most cases, high velocity and stretch (or fluff) drying techniques will need to be used to get superior results. Oh, and the pet needs to be bone dry too!

6.  Learn efficient and SAFE brushing techniques

Systematic brushing is the only way to effectively work through a coat and get right down to the skin. Selecting the correct tool for the coat type will be important. Knowing how to hold the tool along with how much pressure to exert is also important. Not enough pressure and you will not be efficient. Too much pressure and you’re going to make the pet uncomfortable and could cause injury. The key is to work methodically and gently over the entire dog – right down to the skin until a wide tooth comb can easily be pulled through the fur.

7.  Nails, ears, and glands

Trimming nails and cleaning ears is just an automatic process when it comes to grooming pets. If it is not done – or not done well – it’s considered sloppy. Clients don’t want to spend their hard-earned money on sloppy work. Stylists executing haircuts should not have to go back and double-check this type of preliminary pre-work. Some salons routinely check and/or express anal glands. Whatever your salon option is, you should follow their guidelines.

Being a bather – or being a groomers’ assistant – can be extremely rewarding. However, it does carry a lot of responsibility. Many of these skills are considered the foundation of all grooming.

If you need detailed information in how to do any of these skills, become a member of Learn2GroomDogs.com and watch the Core Grooming Skills & Techniques Skill video lessons (click here for a complete video list) or review the front section of my book, Notes From the Grooming Table. Learning the skills does take time. They take dedication and focus to master them. You should never underestimate the value of strong foundation skills. They will form the building blocks of a long and successful career. Mastering these core skills to an absolute fault will ultimately determine how successful you will be in your career. (For more tips on how you can be more efficient and make more money, read my blog, The Need for Speed.)

Remember: every owner faces a choice when it comes to grooming. They can come to you, do the job themselves, not have the pet groomed all… or go down the road to someone else. Make sure they make the right choice by sticking with you.

Happy trimming,

Melissa

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