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10 Tips for Trimming Nails in a Professional Grooming Salon

30063787_mrrWe all dread this phone call.

You’ve just groomed one of your favorite client’s dogs. The nails were super long so you trimmed them. You accidentally got one nail too short. It bled.

A lot.

You didn’t panic. You had the tools and know-how to fix the bleeding toenail. You successfully stopped the bleeding and finished the groom. The dog left your salon looking fabulous and with nicely trimmed nails. You might have even painted them – pink.

Half an hour later, the client calls in a panic. Their freshly groomed pooch is bleeding from a toe. It’s getting all over everything – and they have no idea what to do!! Their back hall looks like a war zone. There is blood everywhere!! And to make matters even worse – the carpet is light cream-colored.

The client wants to know two things:

  1. How do they stop the bleeding?!?!
  2. What are you going to do about their new cream-colored carpet??

What do you do? You have a very upset client on your hands, a dog with a bleeding toenail, and probably a huge carpet cleaning bill. You groan. You shake your head in disbelief. You kick yourself for not checking that nail one more time before the pet left.

Sound familiar? Yep. If you’ve been grooming dogs professionally for any amount of time, you know first-hand what I’m talking about.

Personally, I’m not a nail Nazi. I will get nails as short as I can without bleeding them. However, I have groomers that are a bit more diligent about getting nails trimmed back so they don’t tap the floor. They routinely have to use a styptic powder to get nails to stop bleeding.

Whether I’m dealing with a groomer who believes in getting nails short or someone who is a bit softer on the nail front like me, I still have rules.

Here are my 10 Nail Trimming Guidelines:

  1. Trim nails as closely as possible without creating a bloodbath.
  2. If you do trim a nail too close and it bleeds, use it is as a reference guide so you don’t repeat trimming another nail too short.
  3. If you do bleed a nail, use styptic powder to stop the bleeding. Apply a generous pinch of powder to the nail tip. Hold FIRM pressure on the end of the nail for a MINIMUM of 30 seconds (count OUT LOUD!). If the nail is REALLY a bleeder, hold the powder to a count of 60.
  4. If there is blood on the fur, clean up the area with hydrogen peroxide.
  5. Check the nail again before the pet leaves.
  6. ALWAYS inform the client if any nail was trimmed too short. Let them know what toe it was and have them keep an eye on the foot.
  7. Instruct the client not to let the dog run across abrasive surfaces like concrete or asphalt for the next few hours.
  8. Always send the client home with a nail mending kit that includes a small amount of styptic powder and instructions on how to use it.
  9. If they have ANY problems, inform them to call or text the shop immediately.
  10. If the nail breaks open again in the car or at their home and the client needs professional help to clean up the blood, pay the bill – no questions asked.

These are the policies I put forth in my shops. If you run a professional salon, nails are occasionally going to be trimmed too closely. By following my 10 step action plan when the inevitable does happen, we are proactive in our customer service approach. We the head off all problems prior to the pet even leaving the shop with a nail that is trimmed too short. Hopefully you will, too.

-Happy trimming,

Melissa

 

PS

Here’s a video about nail art you won’t want to miss!

 

[youtube]http://youtu.be/GW3VUhh_YsE?list=UU6QEPG7JG7exQRpEr9e_nHA[/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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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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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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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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What Does the Client Want?

puppy-trainingThe #1 Role of Service Based Businesses: Solution Experts

A product is a physical thing. You can see it and touch it. You can box up the parts or the assembled item and know how it will look, how big it is, and where you’ll put it when you get home. A service, by contrast, is intangible. You can’t mail a service to your house or carry it from a store.

In most cases, services are purchased – touch, taste, smell, and sight unseen. It’s a leap of faith based on the client’s ability to say what they want and the expert’s ability to interpret them correctly. When you go to a salon or barbershop, you can’t try out a haircut before you buy it. You tell your stylist what you want, then – hopefully – you get it. The better you describe what you want, the better the outcome.  Dogs can’t tell you to take a little off the top, so how can you unlock the secret of what your (human) client wants?

By understanding that the person asking the questions controls the conversation!

When you are asking a question, it forces the other person to pay attention to you. It involves them in the conversation. If you’re doing all the talking, the listener’s mind can (and will) wander to other matters – and the end result may not be satisfactory to either of you. But the minute you say, “Let me ask you this: what if we…” the listener must pay attention because they’ll need to answer. It is an automatic reflex.  The power of the words “what” and “how” is almost magical – they command a response.

You’ve now included them in the process.  It’s become a team effort.  You want to get the client on your team – that’s why this conversation is so important.  When you ask questions, you show compassion and concern for the needs of the client and their pet. It helps build rapport. It also allows you to get valuable information from the client.

On average, a person can speak at about 250 words a minute while a person who is listening can think at about 1200 words a minute. So, if you are doing all the talking, the client has a great deal of time to figure out what they may not like about what you are saying, thus giving them an opportunity to complicate the situation! Not only are they manipulating the conversation out of your control, they haven’t heard a thing you’ve said!

How do you develop an effective line of communication with your clients?

Find a Solution in 5 Simple Steps

1)  Make observations. Let your senses guide you when your client walks in. How does the pet look? How does it smell? Do you hear the ticking of nails on your floor? Don’t stop there – observe the human client, as well. Is the dog owner elderly or did s/he come in with small children? This might indicate that a nail filing service might be beneficial to protect sensitive skin. Let common sense, experience, and intuition guide your line of questions. Remember – you’re a problem solver. The more observant you are, the easier it is to find solutions.

2)  Be a detective. This step involves your observations in Step 1 and takes them to another level. Gather clues from what the client tells you and what they don’t. Use your experience and expertise to find solutions that go deeper than the cosmetic.

3)  Filter your data. Ask basic questions like, “Were you thinking of a thorough bath and brush for ‘Fluffy’ today or more of a full haircut?” Let the client talk. Then listen. This will help form an overall rough picture in your mind of the outcome*. Think of this as a sketch to your finished masterpiece.

4)  Pinpoint focus to 5 areas of the pet+.  Ask more specific questions about these key aspects of the pet so you can make a better decision about how they should be styled.  This will provide details that fill out the sketch.  The areas of the body pet are:

  • Overall body
  • Head
  • Ears
  • Legs/feet
  • Tail

5)  Offer limited choices. Now that you know what you can (and maybe should) do for the pet, I personally suggest limiting options to two possibilities. Paint your picture back to the client to show you understand what they want and how it should look.  This also demonstrates that you have listened to them and care about what they have to say.  After all, isn’t that what you expect when you’re the customer?  Make these options your best two – offering more just means spending more time narrowing the field from those that will have less favorable outcomes, anyway.

Always remember, the person asking the questions controls the conversation!

Successful groomers and stylists are master problem solvers. While solving the problem, they also demonstrate concern, compassion, and respect for the pet and the owner. That’s what creates happy customers who keep coming back!

Happy trimming!

~Melissa

 

*Remember to start from the desired end result.  My blog Begin with the End in Mind has more on this topic.

+I recommend using Theory of 5 as a guide to guiding the conversation. Understanding how to break each dog into its essential parts helps simplify the process.

 

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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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Don’t Let Your Salon Become a Doggie Day Care (for Free, Anyway)

kennelrA salon owner recently asked me how I would handle a situation we all face.

What do you do when pet owners drop their dogs off for grooming that should only take 2 to 3 hours and expect you to keep them all day – at no additional cost?

Here’s what you do…

CHARGE FOR IT!!

Let’s face it – you’re never going to get away from this problem, so flip it into a positive.

Add a policy on pet pickup to your service menu: “We pride ourselves in getting your pet back to you as quickly as possible.“ Then briefly explain what your typical timeframe is for most grooming services. It might be something like, “Most grooming services take 1-3 hours depending on the size, condition, and the type of service.” Add something pleasant along the lines that you appreciate prompt pickup upon completion of the groom.

Next, add half-day daycare for select clients. Be bold! Proudly display this in your service menu. Place tasteful signs around your reception area announcing this new service – for “their convenience.” Set a price that establishes the excellent value of this service. Be strong. Be positive. If you’re feeling hesitant about this tactic, remember that this is something you’re doing to help them – you’re giving them the gift of time! They can now be pet free for a little while so they can get their shopping done, clean the house, or just take a little quiet time to themselves (because after all, don’t they deserve it?). You just also happen to earn back some cash for the time and effort you used to spend caring for their pet – for free. If you’re going to end up doing this for them anyway, why not charge fairly for it -because after all, don’t you deserve it?

If you don’t mind acting as canine daycare service – make it a reasonable rate. If you don’t want to do it or basically want to discourage it, set the price at a point that very much makes it WORTH your effort.

Maybe you charge $10 for it… or $25… or MORE. Whatever you choose, make sure people understand it’s by the half-day. If people have been abusing you in this area, you have to be strong. Be pleasant but do not let the clients walk all over you. Remember that this is a mutually beneficial thing you’re doing – you have the upper hand. Be consistent and follow through.

To enhance that positive spin, I would make it sound appealing on the service menu. Make it fun. Tell the client that their pet will be offered water, a mid-day snack, a potty break, and a cozy place to stay.

Then there’s another area we definitely need to talk about: the fine print on your service menu. This is where you state “your rules.” You don’t have to go overboard but you certainly need to set some boundaries for your clients.

One of the rules I would certainly encourage would be a late pickup policy. For example, if the pet is not picked up within an hour of its completed groom, you reserve the right to charge $XX per 15 minutes the pet is left in your care. You get the idea. You need to have something written and posted along those lines to help them remember. And you must follow through. The guests that take advantage of you will need consistent enforcement if you are to make any headway with them.

A late fee is different from a daycare expense. The Paragon School of Pet Grooming doesn’t charge for “daycare.” As a school, Paragon has the space to keep the pets – a luxury you may not have. Because we need high pet volume for our students, we don’t charge clients extra if they need to leave their pet all day due to work situations – we need the dogs more than we need the space!!

However, there are a few clients who just can’t seem to get there by closing time. We found that charging the late pick-up fee to clients that don’t respect our closing time works well to help re-train their thinking about lateness.

Basically, the client is charged $15 for each 15 minutes that they are late. Remember, it’s not just a late pick up – while this might seem a minor inconvenience from the client’s perspective, the staff member has likely made repeated phone calls, has delayed all closing activities (counting the register, closing out credit cards, etc.), and has sacrificed personal time. If you pay your staff by the hour, this may also result in paying out overtime, which adds to YOUR bottom line.

The staff member will wait up to half an hour. After that, the dog is taken out to go potty and is bedded down for the night. A note is left on the door and a message is left on their phone that lets the client know their pet is safe, it’s been made as comfortable as possible, and that it can be picked it up at opening time the following morning. Luckily we’ve never had anyone leave their pet on a Friday night! We let whoever waited for the client collect every penny of the late pickup fee. I just feel that is fair.

All of our front desk team is salaried. If they need to stay late, they don’t get paid extra for it. It’s totally their call whether they charge the fee or waive it, depending on the situation.

Needless to say, people don’t forget their dogs very often. And if somebody has had a true emergency – we’ve totally waived the fee.

Every shop is a little bit different. Find a solution that works for you. You don’t have to be ugly about it. You don’t even have to get frustrated about it. Put a positive spin on it and turn it into a newfound revenue generator! And make sure you smile when you’re talking to your customers about your new service!

Happy Trimming,

~Melissa

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The Importance of Systems

systemsrMy husband and I were just at the hospital for a scheduled surgery. Luckily, it was a non-emergency situation – just to get his nose repaired so he could actually breathe out of BOTH nostrils. Still, it was surgery and as much as he wanted to have it done, the anticipation levels were running high. We were a bit nervous.

The medical team was great. Their thorough procedures helped squelch our anticipation jitters. Everything, from the pre-screening call days before… check in… pre-surgery… waiting room… recovery… home… and follow-up, was explained to us. At every step along the way there were systems in place to ensure that the surgery went off without a hitch, which put our minds at ease. There weren’t any hiccups in the communication process or the surgery itself.

Checks and balances were firmly in place. Everyone in the medical team clearly knew their job. They understood how important their roles were, no matter how large or small. If even one of them made a mistake, it could have a devastating effect on the outcome of the surgery. We’ve all heard the horror stories.

If you stop and think about it, a grooming salon client has the same kinds of anticipation levels. They are entrusting you with one of their most precious possessions – their pet. Most clients are not that familiar with the grooming process and have no idea what truly goes on behind closed doors.

Is you grooming salon set up like a well-oiled medical team? We may not be doctors but our “pet clients” are extremely important to their owners. There are many steps within the grooming service procedure that could turn into shining moments – or go horribly wrong:

  • They get the wrong haircut.
  • The pet isn’t done when promised.
  • They’re charged the wrong amount.
  • They get the wrong collar or lead – maybe even the wrong pet!
  • A pet is injured – or worse.

This list could go on and on. The larger the team that works together, the more processes you need in place for a smooth running operation.

Every grooming salon needs:

  • a customer service team (even if that team is YOU)
  • a bathing department
  • a drying department
  • a grooming/styling department
  • someone in charge of client records/data entry
  • client education
  • marketing
  • proper cleaning and sanitation

To be successful in the long-term, you need to spend time in the short-term setting up processes. Systems are your routines – the way you do things every time. Here is a short list of items that need to be in place for systems to work:

  • Every procedure needs to be broken down, step by step.
  • Each process needs to be written down and reviewed regularly.
  • Every person participating in the activity needs to know and understand how to correctly perform the procedure.
  • Every person then needs training and follow-up supervision until the task is perfected.

Accountability is the key to success. Positive and negative consequences need to be in place and consistently enforced.

If you don’t have any systems in place at the moment, don’t fret. Take one procedure at a time and break it down into smaller chunks. Figure out what needs to be done or happen for each piece. Then move to the next one – and the next one.

Remember the story book fable about the tortoise and the hare? You don’t need to be a jack rabbit straight out of the gate. Slow and steady will win this race. It all starts with the first step. It might take you a month to get your systems in place – it might take a year. If you are in a state of growth, creating systems for your business might be an ongoing process. The trick is not to be overwhelmed by looking at the big picture. Keep it small so you don’t give up – and keep going.

At the end of the day, you always need to focus on your overall goal: to offer outstanding, consistent customer service – just like my husband and I received with his recent operation.

… As for those horror stories? Don’t be one of them. The salons that have the right systems in place will be prepared. Their staff will offer better service and the guests (furry and human) will feel better knowing that they are in good hands. it’s never too late to start. Do it now! Take that first step.

 

Happy Trimming,

-Melissa

 

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