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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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Nine Seconds to Make a First Impression

Dog-Computer-Wallpaper-1024x768rrYou meet someone for the first time – it could be a new client walking through your doors, someone at a grooming trade show or a new team member.

The moment that stranger sees you, their brain makes a thousand assumptions.  It might be a new client or someone you meet anywhere else.  You are giving off clues about yourself before you ever begin to speak.  They are gathering a wealth of nonverbal clues about you.

What are nonverbal clues?

Nonverbal clues include all the ways you present and express yourself, apart from the actual words you speak.  Things like eye contact, gestures, posture, body movements, and tone of voice.  All of these signals can convey important information that isn’t put into words.  They are extremely important at work and in business.  Perception is reality.

If you are dealing with a prospective customer – the following items will instantly fly through their head upon your first meeting:

  • Are you trustworthy?
  • Will you be kind to their pet?
  • Do you have the skills required to groom their dog or cat?
  • Are you likable?
  • Are you confident?
  • Will you charge a fair price for your services?

These impressions form at lightning speed.  Making major decisions about another person happens within seconds of meeting them.

Picture1In business, first impressions are crucial.  You can’t stop people from making snap decisions – the human brain is hardwired this way as prehistoric survival mechanism.  However, you can understand how to make those decisions work in your favor.

First impressions are more heavily influenced by nonverbal clues than verbal clues.  In fact, studies have found that nonverbal clues have over four times the impact on the impression you make than anything you say.

Here are nine nonverbal ways to make a positive first impression with a grooming client, a new team member or a new business associate.

  1. Present yourself professionally.  Blue jeans, sweatshirts, T-shirts and a baseball cap are not professional.  If you are in your shop or van, wear fresh garments that repel dirt, grime and hair.  At a trade show? Dress in ‘professional casual.’
  1. Pay attention to details.  Hair style, light make-up (for women) and your nails all give strong visual cues.  Having fun with personal style is fine – as long as it stays a little more on the conservative side.  Over-the-top piercings, tattoos and gauges will not instantly form a positive impression on most people you meet – especially prospective clients.
  1. Attitude – attitude – attitude.  People pick up on your attitude instantly.  Before you turn to greet someone, or address a team member, or walk into a trade show, think about the situation.  Make a conscious choice about the attitude you want to project.
  1. Fine-tune your posture.  Position and authority are non-verbally conveyed by height and space.  Standing tall, pulling your shoulders back, and holding your head high are all signs of confidence and competence.
  1. Facial expression.  Human faces are incredibly expressive including the eyes, eyebrows, mouth, and any other movement.  Open your eyes slightly more than normal to simulate the ‘eyebrow flash’.  This is the universal signal of recognition and acknowledgment.  Emotions such as anger, happiness, hurt, and boredom are all easily expressed with facial movements.
  1. Smile more.  A smile is an invitation, a sign of welcome.  It says you are friendly and approachable.  Smile at the pooch too.  Owners love that!
  1. Make eye contact.  To transmit energy look at someone’s eyes.  Looking into someone’s eyes indicate interest and openness.  And if that person has a pet in tow, make sure you look into the pets eyes as well.
  1. The handshake.  This is the quickest way to establish a connection.  It’s also the most effective.  Here’s an interesting fact.  On average it takes about three hours of continuous interaction to develop the same level a rapport that you get with a single handshake.  A firm handshake indicates a strong personality.  But don’t crush someone else’s hand – as groomers, our hands are typically really strong!  A weak handshake is taken as a lack of strength.
  1. Lean forward slightly.  Leaning forward shows you’re engaged and attentive.  But be respectful of the other person space.  That normally means staying about two feet away.

Every encounter from chatting with new clients, going to trade shows or attending training sessions presents an opportunity to meet people.  It’s a great way to network, expanding your professional contacts.  Making a positive first impression counts.  You’ve got nine seconds – but if you handle it well, those nine seconds are all you need.

~Happy trimming,

Melissa

PS.

You should check out our videos on Learn2GroomDogs.com.  Here is a featured video clip from our channel on 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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Come! Sit! Stay!

blogrLeadership. If you’re running a business, you know leadership is important. Yet, when I’m speaking before groups of pet professionals, there are always questions on this topic. Here are a few typical ones that always seem to crop up when I do an open mic session.

  • How do I create a reliable team?
  • How do I motivate my team?
  • How do I bring consistency to my team?
  • How do I create respect?
  • How do I stop the bickering?
  • How do I create an enjoyable work environment?

I’m not going to lie. Being a great leader is certainly a challenge. It constantly takes work on the part of the leader. The second you let your guard down, forward momentum can be lost. Directions are not followed. The morale of the team sinks. Productivity dwindles. And customer service goes out the window. Sound familiar?

These are not good things when you’re the boss or the manager of a grooming business.

So how can you improve your leadership skills?

Here’s an angle that might help.

If you are involved in the pet care industry, my guess is it’s because you are passionate about dogs. I’m also going to assume you are naturally good with them. You enjoy their company. Your own pooches are well-behaved. They are trained. You’ve put in the time and effort to create a well-mannered dog.

Nice.  Good work!

(Didn’t that little bit of praise feel good?)

Most packs or herd animals have an ‘alpha’ leader. They are hard-wired to think in those terms. It’s totally natural. If you have even one well-behaved dog – you are ‘alpha’ in that dogs mind. You are his leader.

Guess what? If you’ve trained pets, you already know some of what is involved in being an effective leader.

And dog training is something you are good at – right? You have expectations that challenging, but attainable.

When your dog does something that pleases you, you lavish them with praise. When they misstep, you gently correct them. To win their trust, cooperation and appreciation, you are going to use the most appropriate form of behavior modification that is effective for the situation. You are going to encourage them whenever they start heading in a favorable direction.  You spend time with them – teaching them and helping them to understand.

Training your dog is an exercise in leadership.

Now stop and think about how you can apply those same principles to your team at work. What actions would you take to win the trust, cooperation, and appreciation of the people you work with? Did a light bulb just go off in your head?

Leadership doesn’t have to be hard, but it is more than barking orders and expecting immediate results. You have to be fair, consistent, and reliable as you develop your team. Give solid instruction. Lead by example. Praise often. Show appreciation. Correct undesirable actions quickly before they become bad habits. Remember, some people are going to be easier to train than others. You don’t need harsh action to get results – and belittling someone is never appropriate. Proper training takes a little longer. The time you put into it is worth the result… and it starts with you.

Use what you know to provide proper training. And don’t forget that to motivate and inspire your team that YOU have to keep growing, too. Seek out the training that you need that will help you become a better leader.  Webinars, books, and trade show seminars are a few places that can help you become an effective leader who can create an amazing team.

The perfect team does not happen by accident and won’t magically appear on its own. Your team is the lifeblood of your salon.  Your leadership will determine whether you have what it takes to make an amazing team.  And an amazing team keeps customers coming back!

– Happy trimming,

Melissa

 

PS If you’re interested in more on this topic, I’ve got something amazing to show you.  Click here.

 

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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 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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Neutralizing Stench

stinky Cache - CopyrI love being a professional pet groomer. It’s creative. It’s gratifying. There’s nothing better than having a dog leave your salon looking and smelling amazing.

Being a professional pet groomer means we are problem solvers. Our clients do not have the skills – nor the products – that can solve many coat problems. As pet professionals, we know which products and tools work.

My husband and I live on 160 acres. We have approximately 6 acres enclosed with Invisible Fence. All four of our 100+ pound dogs can roam unsupervised. This keeps our dogs safe – and out of trouble – while giving them the luxury of freedom. Most of the time it works.

Occasionally, it does not.

I was driving back from the farmers market when I got a call from my husband. He was headed out for an appointment and called the dogs into the house. All of the dogs came bounding up to the door like they typically do. However, two of the dogs seemed to be especially proud of themselves. As they got closer, my husband understood why. THEY STUNK TO HIGH HEAVEN!!!!! Especially one of them. Cache was absolutely covered in something very black – and very gooey. You could hardly get near them without wanting to vomit.

Because he was headed out the door, he simply called me and told me what to expect when I got home. I didn’t think much about it, our dogs are rolling in things all the time. He simply shut them back in their “dog room” towards the back of the house.

20 minutes later I stepped through the front door and was virtually attacked by the odor. This was as bad as a direct skunk hit – maybe worse. I made my way to the dog room and peered over the half-door. (By this time I was holding my breath.)

I had never seen a dog so successfully cover herself in a foul material. Heck, Cache even had it on her tail! I booted all the dogs out immediately and set to work steam-cleaning the back room before I tackled the dogs themselves.

I knew I had my work cut out for me. Not only are our dogs all over hundred pounds – they’re extremely heavily coated. At our home, we do not have standard professional grooming tubs or tables, but we DID have the products and tools to wash, clean, and neutralize the foul substance that was all over two of them.

Once I got the back room cleaned up, it was bath time for the pooches. Needless to say, they were not thrilled with me as I gingerly clipped leads to their collars. They were quite proud of their accomplishment. Down to the horse wash rack we went. It wasn’t the most sophisticated dog bathing station – but it worked.

A long time ago, I learned that the Coat Handler product line is my ‘go-to’ product of choice for all my bathing needs. One of the best odor neutralizing products on the market is Odor Handler. There are literally thousands of uses for this product. I personally use it so much (and not just on dogs) that I keep and 9 1/2 pound container of it in the laundry room! Down in the barn, we keep gallons of Coat Handler’s 15 to 1 Shampoo, Coat Handler Conditioner, plus a high velocity dryer for our horses.

My products and tools of choice for this project: Coat Handler 15 to 1 shampoo mixed in a squirt bottle with a generous scoop of Odor Handler and hot water, a long-handled scrub brush, a firm horse brush, a rubber curry, and a garden hose. (Luckily it was 80 degrees outside so no one minded a cool bath!)

I did my best to hose off the bulk of the offensive material clinging to their coats. Luckily it was water-soluble so with the water pressure from the garden hose, I was able to remove most of it. But the odor still remained.

I generously applied my hot soapy solution of shampoo and Odor Handler to the soiled areas. I worked it in with a rubber curry (there was no WAY I was going to touch that nasty stuff with my bare hands!) Then I went back with a horse brush to really work it into each strand of the hair. I finished with a smaller handled brush to deal with the hard to reach places. I let the solution sit for approximately 10 minutes before thoroughly rinsing the dogs until their coats were squeaky clean.

It was time to use my gallon jug of Coat Handler Conditioner. I poured generous amounts into my hands and applied it to their coats, straight. I did not rinse out the conditioner.

I let them have a few generous shakes before I proceeded with towel drying. Then, I pulled out my trusty K-9 II high velocity dryer. I needed them to be dry so I could see if I had been successful with neutralizing the foul stench before I let them back into the house.

By that night, all of our dogs joined us in the living room, lounging at our feet. Everyone had a slight scent of baby powder which was much more appealing to my husband and me.

The reason I was so successful in neutralizing the odor was because I had the knowledge and the tools at my fingertips. As a pet grooming professional, it’s up to us to know the products and techniques that work the best. I’ve tested many products over the years, and the Coat Handler line of products (especially Odor Handler), beats everything else, hands down.

Just ask our noses – and Cache, of course!

 

Happy trimming!

~Melissa

 

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