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Grooming Efficiently vs Grooming Fast – What’s the Difference?

We all have different reasons why we love our careers. For most of us, our careers started because we were obsessed with dogs and cats. What a fabulous way to make money – doing something you enjoy. My guess is that many of you not only love animals, they’re also a hobby and a huge part of your lives. I know very few career opportunities that allow pet lovers to work in a field they truly adore.

I love helping people who are passionate about their career choices. I always encourage people to seek out personal growth. To look at ways to do things better, more efficiently, and with greater focus. Raise the bar. Set personal goals. Set limits. Develop strategies. Ultimately, the pet, the individual, and the business wins.

If you are a solo stylist, you get to make up your own rules. Work at your own pace. There is very little pressure to move beyond your comfort zone.

However, if you work with a team, you will usually have quotas to meet and rules that you need to follow. The business sets up these boundaries in the best interest of the client, staff, and the long-term health of the company. If someone does not meet quotas, it creates a frustrating situation for the rest of the team in terms of time, quality, and financial stability.

Years ago when I ran a mobile operation, our minimum quota of grooms per day was six – or the equivalent of six. Thus, two slots were given for larger jobs such as Standard Poodles and heavy-coated Cockers. If someone had something very small on their roster, they were always given an option to groom another small dog. As long as the vans were routed well, this quota worked out well across the board for years.

There was one exception: Sue (not her real name).

Whenever I hired a new mobile stylist, I always started them with just four dogs and combined that with a very wide arrival schedule. All of our stylists knew this right from the get-go. The quota they needed to meet was six grooms per day. The funny thing about Sue was that she didn’t care about the number of pets she groomed or the amount of money she made. Although she was passionate about animals and people, she did not groom because she needed the cash.

For a long time I was extremely frustrated with Sue’s performance. She would arrive at base at eight o’clock in the morning to pick up her van. Many times she did not come back to base until well after eight o’clock at night. The most dogs I could ever get her to do was five.

It took me a while to realize the frustration was all mine. As a business owner, it’s critical that I pay attention to the financial numbers – but there’s a bigger picture: customer service.

When I looked at Sue’s scheduled re-bookings, she could rarely take on a new client. Her clients absolutely loved her. She wasn’t the fastest groomer. She wasn’t a competition level stylist – never would be. Her grooms were basic, neat, and thorough. However, she was the most compassionate person I have ever hired. Not only did she enjoy the pets, she was passionate about her clients.

To Sue, her career was more than a means to a financial end, it was her social and entertainment outlet. I swear she had breakfast, lunch, and dinner with her clients. She ran errands for them. She shoveled their walks. She loved the senior citizens and the geriatric pets. She would talk with them for hours!

Hmmm. These were the clients my highly efficient stylists wanted to avoid like the plague. Once I came to terms with this concept, I ended up making it work in our favor.

I let Sue slide on the quota. She was dealing with all those clients the rest of my team would rather not do. By letting Sue focus on our more time-consuming clients (and enjoying it!), it allowed the rest of my team to focus on making quotas and/or exceeding them. It worked.

So even though I let Sue slide – only doing five grooms a day when the actual quota with six – it allowed the rest of my team to focus on grooming more pets. Not necessarily faster – just more efficiently.

Untitled Infographic(1)rrThere’s a big difference between grooming efficiently and grooming fast. Grooming efficiently involves doing a good job. Grooming too fast, in my eyes, translates to sloppy work. When I look at developing a grooming team or training new staff members, I always look for people who have the ability to focus and work efficiently.

To me, being efficient means doing a great job in the least amount of time.

I recently heard one of our industry leaders say, “I don’t know many wealthy groomers.” I don’t, either. I do know a lot of groomers and stylists that make a comfortable living and love their careers. Being able to work efficiently translates into creating larger client lists, larger paychecks, and the ability to breathe easily at the end of the day.

Unlike Sue, the majority of us have other responsibilities, outside interests, families to care for, and households to run. We may even have businesses to manage. Not to mention maintaining the health and well-being of both ourselves and the four-legged clients on the table. As much as we love our jobs, we can’t afford to be tethered to a grooming table any longer than necessary.

Being efficient as you groom is not about being fast or sloppy. It’s about being the best that you can be. It’s about creating systems throughout the entire grooming process so we do not miss any steps. As those systems are developed, they become automatic. Once they become part of a routine, you can focus on other areas that bring value to the pets we groom, the clients, and to our own lives.

Think about how you can create systems – or routines – at every step of the grooming process. Break it into bite-sized chunks.

Time everything. Knowing how long each step takes is the starting point of creating any routine. Each step could be broken down further into smaller nuggets, too. Once you start tracking, you can start improving your routine without sacrificing quality.

I love this quote. I try to live my life by it – in all areas. I hope you do too.

The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.
~Anonymous

There are plenty of groomers and stylists who are highly efficient. They can do a small, simple trim in under an hour – and knock it out of the park in terms of quality and customer service. Others struggle to complete the same trim in two hours. Others choose to do that simple trim at their own pace. As long as the work is top quality, the pets are treated with care and compassion, and the environment is safe for everyone – it’s OK.

We all have different reasons why we groom. For some, it’s more than just a job – it’s a lifestyle. Remember, there is a big difference between being an efficient bather, groomer, or stylist and being a fast one. Never stop learning. How you apply new knowledge is totally up to you.

Make the most of your time every day.  Click here to download our FREE handout to help you structure your day.  You can even watch Melissa’s video to see how it’s done, here.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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What’s the Hardest Part of Running a Business?

06-27

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

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

And the real biggie – training them.

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

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

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

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

To get a groomer that can work independently – with safety and quality – will take months, not weeks, to train. After all, this is not a skill that you can quickly show somebody how to do. Grooming is not a simple task. It requires significant training.

I’ve heard some businesses offer two-week training programs for new hires. Then they turn them loose to groom “professionally.” Some circles might consider this enough, but for quality and safety, you need more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you help us blaze the trail?

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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An Easy Way to Create a Poodle Beveled Cuff

As with all grooming techniques, there are many ways to get the job done.

When I was a contest groomer, I always did my Poodle cuffs by hand. I would brush the coat down then give it a quick fluff with my comb. Once it was fluffed, I’d glide a long straight shear in and set the lower edge. Then I’d re-fluff and grab my long curved shears to round and bevel the edges. It was time-consuming.

Done well, the beveled cuffs came out gorgeous. Done poorly, they were a sloppy mess. I had four chances to be perfect with my cuffs – or four chances to really mess up.

For pet dogs, I quickly taught myself another method. It was quick. Fool-proof. And it worked well on most of my shorter stylized pet trims.

On most of my pet trims, I cheated off excess leg hair by skimming it with a guard comb. Not only was it fast – it helped me set the length, too. Once I had the legs roughed in, I would brush the leg coat over the clipped foot with a firm slicker brush. I would slide my hand down the leg with my thumb and first finger resting just below the clipper line on the Poodle foot. My fingers would be my guide as I slid in a small pair of detailing scissors (I choose small shears for the safety of my own fingers!). I would scissor all the way around the cuff line, removing the longer hair.

When I released the coat… voila! A perfect cuff for an active pet. I could adjust the fullness of the beveled cuff by adjusting my scissored line somewhere between the lines of the knuckles of the foot and just below the clipped line on the foot. The lower I was on the foot with my cuff line, the fuller the bevel.

Once my cuff was set, I would neaten and finish the entire leg with shears, smoothing out my guard comb work.

I used this method for years. I even started to incorporate it into my more polished work in the contest ring. It worked well there, too – especially if I used it as a double-check after I did my cuffs with longer shears.

In the past few years, I’ve seen extremely talented stylists start using another method to get perfect cuffs every time. They use a #30 or #40 blade on their clippers! Who knew?

So how do you do it?

It’s very similar to my old method, but instead of shears, pet stylists reach for their cordless 5 in 1 style clipper. They set the blade at the shorter levels, basically the length of a #30 or #40 blade.

Hold the foot off the table at a comfortable level for the pet. With a firm slicker brush, brush all the hair down around the foot. Once the coat is brushed into place, slide your hand down the pet’s leg, thumb and forefinger closest to the foot.

Stop and hold the foot with your fingers coming to rest right at the clipped cuff line. While maintaining your hold on the foot, gently trim at right angles around the cuff with the #30 or #40 blade. Simply touch the coat at the edge line you want to set.

The fullness of the leg coat will determine where you place the line. For fuller legs, use the top of the crease marks on the toes. If the leg coat is shorter, move the line closer to the clipped cuff line.

When you release the coat, the fur will be nicely beveled. The line should be crisp and free of all stray hairs. As with the hand-scissored cuff, check the work from all angles to make sure the cuffs are level from side to side and front to back. Don’t forget to look from table level when inspecting your cuffs for perfection.

It may take a few tries to perfect this technique, but once you do, creating flawless cuffs every time becomes simple. With a well-prepped dog, this technique is fun, fast, and super safe.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_white  Did you try it? How did it work for you? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us what works for you!


3 Books to Help Build an Amazing Grooming Career

The choice to groom my first dog wasn’t mine. I had been working as kennel help and would occasionally help the groomer when my tasks were done. Nothing major, just bathing a few dogs, trimming some toenails, maybe brushing out some mats. I might even dry a few dogs by hand.

One day all that changed.

I still remember that call from my boss. She phoned me at home one night to tell me the full-time groomer we’d had was no longer with the salon. In an instant, my job changed from kennel help to groomer.

My first day on the job, I had six dogs on my roster – and no clue how to groom them. At the time there was nothing like Notes From the Grooming Table or even The Theory of 5 to guide me down this new path. Being young and fearless has its advantages – and yes, I got through my first day at my new job.

I won’t say that during those first few months I did beautiful work. Far from it. But there was something about it I liked. I was working with animals. Being creative. Having a skill that needed to be mastered. I found it all rewarding and challenging at the same time. The more I learned about dogs – and grooming them – the more I wanted to understand how to do it well.

Wanting to learn more brought me to voluntary certification testing. I studied breed standards and terminology. I learned about structure and movement. I worked hard to achieve competition level pet styling. As I became more knowledgeable, my skill level at the grooming table improved immensely.

In some ways, educating myself was like learning a foreign language. I bought my first AKC Complete Dog Book in 1979. It was the yellow one. Since then I have owned every version put out by the AKC including their latest edition (which is amazing by the way!).

I still remember that first yellow book. I soaked up the words but was clueless as to how to apply what I was reading. The terms and concepts were abstract in so many ways. I kept my trusty highlighter in my hand – but I really didn’t even know what I was highlighting. I tried to imagine what the words meant, but I couldn’t form a picture in my mind. I just didn’t know.

To complicate things even further, I started attending clinics. Advanced clinics. The demonstrators were talking about structure…movement… angles. I was totally lost. All this information was over my head. But I never gave up. As baffled as I was, I was still fascinated. I wanted to figure it out.

Every time I ran across a mysterious word in the AKC Complete Dog Book, I looked it up in the glossary. (Keep in mind this is long before the age of the internet and Google searches!) The more I learned – the more I wanted to learn. I started hunting for books that would help me understand how a dog was put together and why.

The next book I discovered was Canine Terminology, by Harold R. Spira. It was a gold mine! It was a visual dictionary of terms. All those things I struggled to imagine on my own, I could now see. How did those terms play out? What was a deep set eye? What was considered high ears? What were parallel planes? What was the difference between a cat foot and a hare foot? Any term that I found in the breed standards, I could almost always find a thorough explanation for in Canine Terminology.

I was feeling pretty confident as my knowledge grew. I could now envision what a dog that was standing still should look like based on the written standard. Yet, I still didn’t understand the “whys” of what I was doing. And I was certainly still clueless when it came to movement. All that talk about angles in the front and rear assemblies – what? How does that work? But more importantly why does it work – and when a dog is not built correctly, how does it affect the dog?

That’s when I discovered K9 Structure & Terminology, by Edward M. Gilbert, Jr. and Thelma R. Brown. It was like a light bulb going off in my head. I still didn’t totally understand the angles but I could visually see how the angles would work together when it came to effective movement. What I really loved about this book was the authors’ use of wild animals as examples. They talked about how the animals were structurally designed to survive – and thrive – in their environments.

The domesticated dog is a man-made creature. Breeds were originally bred and developed to assist man to do thousands of jobs. Almost all purebred dogs have some working trait in their backgrounds. How they are structurally put together allowed them to work efficiently – or not – for the job they were designed to do. Man stole those ideas by studying wild animals. With controlled breeding, man was able to create dogs designed to excel in areas wherever they needed help. The domesticated dog was there, working right beside man, to survive and thrive.

Today, many of those working roles are no longer required due to advancement in the industrial age and technology. Many breeds have been lost – while other ancient breeds still exist in small pockets around the globe. By the same token, new breeds are being developed in the domestic dog to meet the changing needs of mankind.

In the 12 years since I wrote Notes From the Grooming Table, there have been over 50 new breeds introduced to the American Kennel Club (that’s why I wrote the new Second Edition). When we travel outside the US, there are many breeds that we have never heard of – or seen – yet they are ancient breeds to their countries. Most of these breeds have specific roles and duties. The structure of the dog determines whether they are efficient in their roles – or not.

As professional all-breed pet groomers and stylists, it is critical that we understand the finer attributes of what makes up a purebred dog. The better we understand what the breed was developed for, how it was used, and what the ideal specimen should look like, the better we become with our craft. Plus, this knowledge allows us to interact and better understand our pet clients every day.

Regardless of how you get your training – through a formal training program, an apprenticeship program, or even if you are self-taught – never stop learning.

Knowledge builds confidence. The more confident you have, the more proficient you will be with every dog that crosses your table. Understanding allows you to take advantage of opportunities when they land at your feet. Education, knowledge, and the desire to grow are the tools you need to reach your maximum potential.

What books or learning tools have helped you succeed? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us what works best for you!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa


Maintain a Steady Pace

Speed is the key to being a successful pet groomer. Have you watched a highly proficient pet stylist at work? They don’t race around frantically. They don’t whip from one task to the next with lightning speed. They are not frazzled. They are not stressed. They blow through 10, 12, even 14 dogs with ease.

How do they do it?

business-womanHow do they manage a full day and still get home to meet their kids coming off the bus from school? They still manage to get to the gym after work. They enjoy their own dogs when not grooming client’s pets. They have the time AND energy to have a life when they step away from the grooming table.

Do you?

When I observe these successful groomers, I’ve noticed important traits they all share. They work with a steady pace. They have a rhythm to their tasks. Their tempo doesn’t change. They follow the same order as they work on each pet. Their tools are laid out in an orderly fashion, sharp and within arm’s reach. They are not distracted by ringing phones, tales from their fellow team members, nor the personality of the pet they are working on. They are focused and efficient as they work around the pet. There is no wasted effort. No wasted motion.

There are methods to each grooming job. Following a particular order with each type of groom will assistance you with getting through the tasks the quickest. There will be five main types of jobs you do every day – day in – day out at any grooming shop.

The five types of grooming jobs

1. Short haircuts, six weeks or more
2. Short haircuts, six weeks or less
3. Guard comb trims
4. Bladed body with fuller legs and/or furnishings/pattern trims
5. Bath and brush type pets

Generally speaking, the faster you can get a dog to the tub, the faster the trim will go. Dogs with six weeks or less coat growth can normally go straight to the tub. With today’s products, shampoos, conditioners, and high velocity dryers, much of the pre-work can be eliminated. Dematting or pre-trimming is a waste of time with six weeks or less trims.

When it comes to haircuts or finishing a bath and brush dog – pay attention to the order you work. Develop an order – the same order every time for each of the five grooming jobs. If you struggle with remembering the order, write it down and post it at your grooming station. Time yourself on each task. Work on improving your speed with small components within each job. Don’t jump around.

Always follow the order.

Watch top stylists at work. Watch their videos. Sit ringside at grooming competitions and watch the leading stylist compete. With consistent repetition, you’ll increase your speed in no time. You’ll have more time to spend enjoying your free time doing what you want to do. The stress and frustration will be highly minimized. And the best part – you’ll make more money, in less time!

Don’t hurry or rush around frantically to get the job done. Maintain an easy pace and work steadily. Remember the fable of the tortoise and the hare? Highly productive people work a certain rhythm that allows them to flow through enormous amounts of work without becoming stressed or anxious.

Here is a great Learn2GroomDogs.com video lesson that shows how the pros get it done.  Join today!
Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

Do you have any tricks like this one? Tell us about them on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.


Learning to See Like an Artist

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!

If you ask people in our industry if they think grooming and styling pets is an art form or a skilled trade, most would say that it’s a little of both. I agree. When you watch members of GroomTeam USA at work, their efforts are definitely works of art. Skills like theirs take years to develop. Today, I want to talk about one aspect of that development: learning to see like an artist.

I’ve had the benefit of seeing hundreds of people learn to become pet groomers during my years at The Paragon School of Pet Grooming. I also have a Bachelor’s Degree in Art, which means I’ve taken a lot of classes to develop a range of skills that are similar to what we teach our students. Just like being a good groomer means more than loving to work with pets, learning to become an artist takes more than loving to paint or draw. It requires control and the ability to see things that others do not.

“Seeing” like an artist, or “developing your eye,” takes time and patience. Essentially what you are doing is training yourself to see:

  • what is there
  • what isn’t there
  • what things look like now
  • what the finished product should look like
  • spatial alignment
  • balance
  • proportion
  • perspective

Learning how to see these things takes practice. Here are a few tips to help get you there.

Have a Plan

Melissa Verplank has mentioned this concept when she says that you should “begin with the end in mind.” It involves imagination on your part and the ability to see into the future – in this case, a beautifully groomed pet.

When I’m about to start a drawing or painting, it begins with a blank canvas or sheet of paper. With a sculpture, it begins with a lump of clay or stone. Before I even get started, I’ve already spent time thinking about what I want to do. In my head, I’ve already figured out what I want the finished product to look like. I know what tools or colors I will use, and what it will look like each step of the way. I know the process I will follow and how involved it will be. I might have a series of detailed sketches to help keep me on course. Above all, I spend time before I ever touch pencil to paper just looking at the blank page and seeing what I will create on it. The pet is your canvas. Before picking up your clippers, take a minute to really look at what you’re working with so you know where you’re going.

LOOK – See the Shapes in the Clouds

So I’m staring at the page… what am I looking at? What am I looking for? When I’m staring at that blank sheet of paper, I’m seeing what I will put there. As I stare into that whiteness, I’m watching the colors and lines take shape in my mind and align themselves on the page. It’s like my mind has produced a transparency of the finished product and has mentally created an overlay onto the page. All I have to do is put the marks on the paper. If I’m sculpting, I’m staring at the lump of rock and seeing the shape of what I want to create in the stone. All I have to do is remove all the stuff around it and let it out.

When grooming, first look at the pet before you. From your training, attending conformational dog shows, your AKC Complete Dog Book, and maybe your copy of Notes From the Grooming Table, you know what the dog should look like when it’s done. Learn to see the shape of the perfectly groomed pet through the overgrown coat, like transparent layers stacked one on top of the other. When you can see that perfectly groomed “after” image clearly in your mind, you can begin the process of “erasing” anything extra that blocks that view.

Be able to picture your finished product – after all, if you don’t know where the finish line is, how will you know you’ve completed the race?

Know Your Landmarks and Learn the Art of Navigation

Trim styles are all about anatomy. Groomers need to know their breed standards and to know them they need to understand anatomy. If you’re a visual learner, get out your reference material and study the images until you can see them on any dog that walks into your salon. If you’re a tactile student and learn by doing, get those books out and learn to find reference points on dogs through your sense of touch. Feel where the point of rump is, the point of shoulder, and the barrel of the chest. If you can’t see them, learn your anatomy reference points by touch. Then learn to do both. Developing your knowledge base creates reliable instincts and reflexes.

Learn how to Measure Balance and Proportions Visually

Have you even been on a diet? Have you ever measured out quantities of food? Were you surprised by how much or how little a cup of anything was? With practice, you could eyeball a quarter cup of yogurt or 4 ounces of chicken pretty accurately, right? Didn’t it speed up the process?

The same thing is true when it comes to visual measurements. With practice, you get better and more efficient. I learned it in art school by using a pencil or my thumb, but groomers can use a trusty comb to do this trick.

The Eye Exam

Imagine yourself grooming a dog. You know that the right side has to match the left. Standing directly in front of the dog, imagine a straight line dividing the pet in half. Compare each side to the other, using specific points of reference as a guide. Look for landmarks on the pet’s head, body, and legs that require symmetry. Stepping back and looking from side to side will help. If you know things are off, but can’t figure out why, hold up your comb and cover up one side, then the other. It’s kind of like an eye exam where you read the chart first with your right eye, then your left. Think of it like a game of, “Spot the Differences.” Make it fun so it becomes less frustrating.

Thumbs Up

Have you ever wondered why artists extend their thumbs, or hold up a pencil or brush and stare at it at arm’s length? What they’re doing is making visual measurements and that thumb or brush is the ruler.

For this one, you’re still standing back and facing the pet head-on and imagining that line dividing the pet in equal halves. Are your ears the same length? Hold your comb even with the bottoms of the ears and perpendicular to the floor. You’ll be able to see which one is longer and be able to even them out.

Take a Step Back

Step back from the dog so you can see the entire animal. As artists, one of the worst habits we fall into is spending too much time working in one specific area. We have good reasons for it – we want it to be perfect. The problem is that while you’ve been tinkering away and nitpicking at that one foot, you’ve lost all sense of perspective and balance with the rest of the body. Now, you’ve got one foot smaller than the rest, so you have to tighten up the other three. You do that, then realize that the legs are now off, so you tighten them up, too. Suddenly, you see that by shortening the legs, the body is out of whack, and you’ve lost control. Losing control = losing time. By zooming in, you’ve created more work for yourself and lost time. That’s not a winning combination.

So what happened? Well, you basically made a rookie carpenter’s mistake. When you shorten up one table leg without doing proper measurements, the table wobbles. Standing too close or failing to look at the whole dog regularly results in perspective-based mistakes. Standing back allows you to see things more clearly.

Developing your artistic eye is not only helpful – it’s practical. By training your eyes to see what you need them to see, you’ll save time, become more efficient, and achieve a more balanced trim. You’ll gain confidence in your abilities and your customers will see the difference. Understanding these visual measurement tricks and putting them into practice is one small step toward becoming the groomer you know you can be. It’s worth the time to learn to see like an artist and unleash your own potential.

Did this help?  Tell us how you unleash YOUR inner artist on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.

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Make it a great day!

~Joelle Asmondy


The Pet Grooming Field – Do You Know Where Do You Fit?

Discovering the Meaning Behind the Job Titles

Groomer.

I have always struggled with this word. Stop and think about it. Is it really the best definition for the wide variety of skills necessary to do our job? Personally, I think the term “Groomer” is too broad a term to use within our field.

Think about how the medical profession is organized… when you need a routine annual medical exam, do you book an appointment with a Podiatrist? No. You’d get an appointment at your regular clinic, where they deal primarily with routine and preventive health care. Depending on your condition, you might get an appointment with a nurse practitioner who is qualified to treat a certain spectrum of illnesses. For situations requiring more formal training and experience, you’d see your family doctor. If a health disorder required attention from an expert in a particular field of study, you would seek the help of a specialist.

Another point to ponder… how do you think their pay scale is structured? I would bet the medical specialist takes home a much larger paycheck than the nurse practitioner or even the family physician.

Let’s flip this over to what we do. Bottom line – we’re pet specialists with three distinct skill levels:

  1. Bather, Assistant, or Bathing Technician
  2. Groomer, Pet Groomer, or Grooming Technician
  3. Stylist or Pet Stylist

Here are my definitions for each of those areas.

1. Bather, Assistant, or Bathing Technician

These folks have a basic knowledge base of core grooming skills. In some cases, the Bather’s duties may cross over into other job descriptions. In many smaller salons, the Bather might act more as a personal assistant to the Groomer or Stylist. A Bather’s duties might include any task that could be easily delegated by the Groomer or Stylist so they can focus on getting dogs completed in a timely manner.

Bathers, Assistants, and Bathing Technicians should have a basic understanding of:

  • Selection and Care of Equipment
  • Canine Psychology and Temperament
  • Safety and Sanitation
  • Anatomy
  • Pet Handling
  • Breed Identification
  • Skin and Coat Conditions
  • First Aid and CPR
  • Parasites and Their Control
  • Diseases and Preventive Vaccination
  • Nutrition
  • Common Illnesses and Skin Disorders
  • Common Grooming Products
  • Equipment Handling
  • Coat Pre-Assessment and Pre-Work
  • Bathing and Drying Skills
  • Brushing and Combing Skills
  • Mat Anatomy and Safe Removal
  • Equipment Handling
  • Nail and Feet Trimming
  • Ear Cleansing
  • Tooth Care
  • Anal Gland Expression (Optional)

Although the Bather role in a busy salon is typically considered an entry level position, in reality it’s one of the most important roles of a successful salon. If a dog is not washed perfectly and dried properly, quality work can never be achieved. No matter how talented the Groomer or Stylist is when it comes to trimming and styling pets, they will never be able to do a good job on a dirty or incorrectly dried pet. Period.

Earning Potential – Entry Level

2. Groomer, Pet Groomer, or Grooming Technician

A Groomer deals with basic grooming needs. They can get dogs clean, dried properly, and thoroughly brushed out. They can do everything the Bather does but they kick it up a few notches. Groomers can complete challenging bath and brush pets with ease. Plus, they can trim pets safely and efficiently with clippers. Groomers are comfortable with a variety of clippers and blade choices. They can handle a wide range of coat types on both bath and brush style pets as well as simple, low maintenance haircuts. They have basic knowledge of how to work with scissors and blenders, getting adequate results for non-discriminating clients.

Pet Groomers should have advanced knowledge and understanding of the previously mentioned areas and be able to work with greater speed and efficiency without sacrificing quality and safety.

The Groomer in almost any salon is the workhorse. They focus on non-nonsense, low maintenance trim styles. Their concentration is on getting the dog thoroughly brushed out, mat free, and super tidy. Trim work focuses more on the neat and clean aspect of grooming than creating highly stylized haircuts. Advanced training and continued education in this area can vastly improve grooming speed, quality, and enjoyment of the job.

Earning Potential – Mid-Range Level

3. Stylist or Pet Stylist

A Pet Stylist molds and shapes the coat in a manner that accentuates the features of the pet. They have a firm understanding of anatomy, breed profiles, as well as structure and movement. They have a firm comprehension of technical skills. An accomplished Pet Stylist can apply those skills in an artistic manner. Their personal tools are of the highest caliber, allowing them to create remarkable trims in a very short amount of time. A seasoned Stylist will often also specialize in particular breeds, grooming techniques, or personality types.

Pet Stylists should have expert knowledge and understanding of the previously mentioned areas, be able to work with greater speed and efficiency without sacrificing quality and safety, and have expert control of clippers, shears, combs, brushes, blades, and stripping knives.

Serious Pet Stylists are generally highly motivated. They advance their careers through continued education. It’s common for an aspiring Pet Stylist to seek out many forms of advanced learning. Many of them turn it into a personal goal or an enjoyable outlet. Conformation dog shows, grooming trade shows and competitions, certification testing, books and magazines, videos, clinics, workshops, private coaching and training, and canine trials are just a few areas the motivated Stylist can use to ramp up skill levels.

Earning Potential – Highest Level

The term “Groomer” is just not descriptive enough. It just doesn’t cover it all – especially if you wear multiple hats in your salon like Receptionist, Accountant, and Cleaning Crew. When a business starts to grow, layers of expertise will develop within your team.

Just like in the medical profession, the more you learn, the more you earn. The stronger your knowledge base and the more proficient you are, the more money you’re going to make. And knowledge has a wonderful side effect – confidence. Why not take steps toward building your skills and confidence every day?

Using a generic term like “Groomer” just doesn’t work for me. I bet it doesn’t work for you, either. Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us what woks best for you!

Happy trimming!

~Melissa


The Art of Packaging – Gifts for Grooming Clients

Holiday Packaging #1rrI love this time year. There is so much to do. So many details to attend to. So many opportunities to visit with friends and family. So many thoughtful gifts to give and receive. Everything revolves around people we love and appreciate – including our clients.

For many of us in the pet grooming business, this is one of the busiest times of year. The fur is flying, clippers are clipping, scissors are sculpting, and festive bows adorn most pets as they walk out the doors.

This is also the time year that clients can be extremely generous with gifts. Do you have a special gift ready to reciprocate?

When I ran my mobile grooming business of 6 vans, we gave bags of assorted dog biscuit treats. Even though we packaged up the bags a day or two ahead of time, gift-giving for all our clients had become quite the chore.

At that time, a good friend lived with me. She was a fashion designer and has since gone on to become a very successful stylist for photo and video shoots. Her attention to detail was immense. She watched me early one morning as I was assembling the gifts. The kitchen was totally lined with white – individually decorated – paper lunch bags. There must have been at least 40 of them. I had CASES of biscuits lining the edges. “After all, each gift had to have a wide assortment…” or so I thought.

I would grab a large scoop of one variety of biscuits and start dropping a few into each bag. I would make my way around to every bag. Then I would move to the next variety of biscuits and do the same. Then, the next type of crunchy treat. The process seemed to go on forever until the bag was about half full. I would then fold the tops over and staple each of them.

blog imageMy friend watched with her steaming cup of coffee for multiple days before she finally said to me, “Melissa, there’s a better way to do this. The gift is not about the size of the package – it’s about the presentation.”

“Really,” I said with raised eyebrows.

She came into the kitchen, opening the drawer that held my plastic baggies. She grabbed a plastic bag, a pair scissors and some pretty ribbon. She proceeded to drop 4-5 biscuits into the corner of the plastic bag. She tied the bag off with a pretty ribbon in a simple knot and trimmed the edges at an angle. Finally, she cut the excess off of the plastic bag top.

Ta-da!

 

She had created a gorgeous gift in no time. It was simple. It was elegant. It was classy. It was a gift that was easy to give and receive.

I must have learned that lesson almost 30 years ago. I still carry it with me today. The gift isn’t necessarily about the size of the gift or the cost. It’s about the presentation.

It did not take us long to graduate from the small plastic baggie. The generic baggies required trimming to make it appear presentation worthy. We quickly discovered you can order bags and a wide variety of custom sizes.

Today we look at the items we need to package. We order plastic bags that are appropriately sized to custom fit whatever we need to package. Dog biscuits gift bags to welcome packages and everything in between.

We have used this principle over and over again in all of my companies with great success. The next time a client gives you a generous tip – or a plate of holiday cookies – you’ll have something worthy to hand them in exchange.

Happy Trimming!

~Melissa

P.S.

Here is the new video from Learn2GroomDogs.com!

[youtube]http://youtu.be/3L4ZEo9XPmk[/youtube]

 

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Tips for Booking a Smooth Holiday Season

blog imagerDon’t blink. The holidays are going to be here before you know it. Are you ready?

If you have a reasonably busy salon – and have been at this for a few years – you know the holiday season is crunch time. In a very narrow window of opportunity, you will be busy grooming the regular clients in your database.

Every

one

of

them.

Are you going to let your clients run rampant over you or are you going to take charge of the situation before it runs out of control?

The holidays are a special time of year. Yes, it’s one of the busiest times for a professional grooming salon. However, it’s also the time of year to enjoy time with those closest to your heart.  If you are chained to your grooming table throughout the entire holiday season – how can you possibly enjoy your family and friends?

Sure, keeping your customers happy is important, but so is your family. So are your close personal friends. Don’t let the insanity of the holiday season put a damper on your festive mood.

Believe me, I learned the hard way, too. Grooming super long hours up to 14 days straight before Christmas left me totally spent and exhausted. I was definitely a Scrooge throughout the entire holiday season. I knew I had to make a change when one Christmas I literally slept through the entire day.

Here’s a trick I implemented a number of years ago. It’s worked like a gem for me and my teams.

We start looking at our holiday season in September. We start booking our top priority clients months out. How do we figure out which clients those are? Simple.

We start pre-booking all our premiere clients based on the number of weeks between grooming appointments. It’s a service we offer to our best clients for free.

We work in the following order:

Weekly clients get top billing. They get their choice of premier times and days. Once those clients are booked, we move to our biweekly clients. Next, our two-week clients are booked, then we move on to our three-weekers and so on until we reach the end of our 6-week clients. Always go in that order.

By the time we complete pre-booking all of our holiday appointments, there are very few holes left to fill with other regular customers. Those are the only other customers that we would take. Any customer that walks through our doors for grooming appointment during the holiday season MUST have a history with our grooming salon. During the peak holiday season, we never take a new customer.

Once we started utilizing this type of scheduling, the three days prior to a major holiday were a breeze. Almost every dog on the schedule is at least a three week client. How hard is it to groom dogs like that? You know the answer to that – they are EASY!

To me, that’s this best way to deal with the holiday season. Take care your best customers. Set limitations on how many dogs you going to do per day. You will be busy but you won’t (and shouldn’t) be chained to your grooming table during the entire holiday season.

Never forget the true meaning of the holidays. They are meant to be spent with family and close friends.

Have you already pre-booked all of your holiday appointments? Excellent . You’re well and your way to having a joyful and well organized holiday season. If you haven’t already started booking those clients – don’t waste any more time. Start now.

Here’s a little more on the subject – and aren’t our hats the BEST!  You can see more on this topic – and so much more – on Learn2GroomDogs.com.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/tvO4Ji8Lli4?list=UU6QEPG7JG7exQRpEr9e_nHA[/youtube]

-Happy trimming,

Melissa

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Thinning Shears are the Pet Stylist’s Eraser

Blog ImagerIt doesn’t matter how long you’ve been grooming or how talented you are as a pet stylist – sometimes you just need a little help. An “oops” can occur at any time. Mistakes happen.

Maybe there is a spot on the coat that you just can’t get smooth. Maybe there is tracking in the coat from the clippers or guard comb. You may have left scissor marks in the coat – or a hole in the coat you accidentally made with clippers or scissors. You might even be working with a dog that will not hold still long enough to work safely with clippers or scissors – leaving the coat rough and jagged.

Thinning shears can be your savior. They erase rough spots. They blend out jagged edges. They smooth out transition areas. They fix mistakes.

The difference between a good stylist and a great stylist can be determined by how much value they place on their blending shears.

Thinning shears (or blending shears) are the best-kept secrets in the grooming world. Used properly, they can make mistakes much less noticeable. For a new stylist, this is one of the first shears I always recommend upgrading in your toolbox.

Stylists that understand the value of this type of shear will invest in multiple pairs. Just like straight edge shears, there are wide varieties from which to choose. Some are for more general use while others have more specific usage. The key is to know how you want to use the shear. Do you need it for light wispy coats? Drop coats? Terrier styling? Working around the head or eye area or dealing with large surface areas? There is a blender to fit every single one of these needs.

I always suggest you personally try out thinning shears before you purchase them. Just like Colin Taylor says, shears are like shoes. You need to find the ones that fit… you! They have to fit properly as well as cut smoothly and run effortlessly in your hands.

So how do you narrow down your choices? Ask. Find out what other groomers and stylists are using. Determine which thinning shears they rely on every day in their salons. Believe me, they have opinions! There are lots of fabulous thinning shears out there – but there’s also a lot of junk.

Most high quality blending shears will have an average cost of $150 – $350. Of course, you can spend more if you like. Your equipment is an investment in your career. You may not need the Rolls-Royce when you first start out — but you do need something that is reliable and dependable. Luckily, there are many styles and varieties from which to choose.

The difference between a good stylist and a great stylist is that they know how to fix mistakes. Every one of us makes them. Having a nice collection of thinning and blending shears will be the erasers you need when that “oops!” happens.

Happy trimming!

-Melissa

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