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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.

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-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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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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The Need for Speed

12506739_lTime is the most common concern for professionals in this industry. New groomers worry that they’ll never be able to do more than 4 dogs a day. Salon owners need employees who can hit the ground running.  They need people who can groom 6-8 dogs per day.  Or you’ve been at the table for a while but still struggle to get beyond 5 dogs per day.

Seasoned pros are knocking out 8… 10… 12… 14 or more pets every day.

So what are you doing wrong? What are the common areas that seem to be the sticky spots? What areas in your day are robbing you of precious minutes?

Top 10 Areas Where Pet Pros Can Improve

1.  Always start with the end result etched firmly in your mind

The better you know where you are headed – the easier it will be to get there. Know what a high-quality trim looks like – even if it’s a shave off or a close body trim. Know what balance and style is. Know what a beautifully brushed out dog looks and feels like. If you’re working on a purebred, know what a beautiful specimen should look like.

2.  Don’t start with elbow grease – always let products and tools do the work first

In the past 30 years, there have been great developments in products and tools that make our jobs easier. Go to trade shows and test them for yourself. Ask others on social media outlets what they like to use. Find out what products and tools the top pros use at their grooming tables. They likely have a very solid reason why they use what they do. They did not get to be top stylists by using inferior products and tools!

3.  If water can penetrate the coat, wash the pet first

Don’t waste time pre-clipping a dog that comes then every six weeks or less. Get it straight to the tub. You’re wasting time clipping off that small amount of coat. The same thing goes with a dog that is matted or is shedding. If the water can penetrate the coat, get them right into the tub. A clean coat is going to be more pleasant to work on. Plus, a large majority of mats and tangles are held together by dirt. Remove the dirt and the job just got easier.

4.  A powerful high velocity dryer is the professional stylist’s greatest asset in time management

In my opinion, the development of the high velocity dryer is one of the greatest advancements the grooming industry has ever seen! Put simply, (if used correctly) this tool produces the fastest results with the highest quality on any given coat type.

  • it dries the coat with lightning speed
  • it can straighten the coat for a beautiful fluff dry
  • when used prior to the bath it will loosening dirt next to the skin
  • it effectively removes most mats or tangles
  • it is extremely efficient with the removal of shedding fur

5.  Towel Dry – Towel Dry – Towel Dry

It never ceases to amaze me how many people miss this step. Incomplete towel drying costs precious minutes in the drying process. Multiply that by six or eight dogs and you’ve lost 30 to 60 minutes out of your day. Here’s my goal: towel dry thoroughly enough so that spray does not come off the dog once I start working with a high velocity dryer.

6.  Three clipper passes or less!

If your dog is bathed and blown out properly, the goal is to make three clipper passes – or less – to get it absolutely smooth. The first pass knocks out the longest coat (at this point I’m not going for smoothness). The second pass smooth’s it out. The third pass eliminates high spots that I’ve missed. Three times around the dog with the clippers – period. If you can get done quicker than that – bonus!

7.  Create a routine for everything you do

This is a bit like the waitress listing off the salad dressing choices at a restaurant. She has a routine that she follows. If you stop her mid-list, she often has to start all over again. She never misses a choice because she sticks to her routine. You should have a routine for every dog that comes into your salon. Stick to your routine so you never miss a step.

8.  Cheat like crazy with attach on combs

If there was ever a cheat tool in your toolbox, this is it! For many pet stylists, attach on guard combs have replaced a lot of the hand scissoring work. They come in a wide array of sizes. They let you establish a depth of coat just by following the dog’s body. For most people, this is much simpler than to master exquisite hand scissoring. It allows you to mold and sculpt the fur quickly and efficiently. With knowledge of proper canine structure and creative use of your guard combs, you can create a highly stylized trim in no time.

9.  Never, ever work on a pet that you feel is dangerous to itself or to you

With so many cooperative pets to work on, there is no reason for you to tackle a highly aggressive dog. Your hands are your livelihood. You need to protect them at all costs. No one needs the aggravation, frustration, or anxiety of having to deal with a dangerous dog. I’d rather have a client who is upset with me for refusing to do their dog than have a groom result in injury. Or to be bitten. It’s just not worth it.

10.  Love What You Do

Being a professional pet groomer or stylist has huge rewards. For many, it’s one of the most gratifying and creative jobs they have ever held. However, it has is down sides, too. It’s a far cry from playing with puppies all day. If you’ve crossed that line and grooming pets is no longer enjoyable, do yourself and your clients a favor – step away from the grooming table. Love your career or leave it.

In order to be a valuable member of a pet grooming team, you need to have to have a burning desire – the need for speed. The more pets you can get through safely, without sacrificing compassion and quality, the more valuable you are to your salon.

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Groomers for Hire – What to Look For in Job Candidates

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Hiring pet bathers, groomers and stylists is one of the most challenging responsibilities a pet salon owner must face. But rest assured you’ll eventually find them. Even if you are desperate, don’t hire just anybody. In the long run — it will hurt you way more than it will help you. Trust me on that one!

Even though they are difficult to locate – they can be found. Ideally, you would be looking for someone experienced in dogs – and better yet – grooming dogs. All shapes and sizes.

But that’s just the starting point. You’re also looking for someone who is reliable, punctual, compassionate, honest, and a team player. Ideally you are looking for someone who enjoys both people and pets. Plus, they have to have a personality that will help your salon attract more clients.

With a very specific job market that has few candidates, it makes the hunt even more difficult. It would be wonderful if you had an entire file of resumes of experienced groomers to choose from. However, in our field, it just doesn’t happen very often. Most likely you’re going to fill the position with someone who will need training. You will need to teach them and mold them into your ideal employee.

So what do you look for? Here are four things I look for when seeking a new pet grooming enthusiast to join the team.

#1. Compassion & Passion – No matter how talented a person may be, without compassion and passion, they she won’t be much of an asset for your salon. Look for someone who can easily identify with your business goals and its mission.

#2. Commitment – Seek out a pet enthusiast who is eager to learn more about the grooming industry. Do you see the potential in that person to be dedicated and committed to his job? This is a field where learning can be never ending.  Are they receptive to increasing their skill level?

#3. Problem Solver – All businesses face problems every day. Your grooming salon is definitely not an exception. Hire someone who can be relied on to analyze, address and solve problems effectively.

#4. Professionalism – Do they present an image of professionalism in their personal appearance, their mannerisms and their speech?

Here are a few items that always impressed me when I’m interviewing prospective groomers.

  • They are punctual. They show up five minutes prior to the interview.
  • They present a well pulled together look. It doesn’t need to be fancy but it does need to be well thought out.
  • They smile and shake my hand firmly as we introduce ourselves.
  • They supply a full resume of their experience including references.
  • They have brought a photo portfolio of their work. Is it well presented?
  • If they’re a recent graduate, they supply copies of their certificate, report card, and attendance records from grooming school.
  • They have a proven track record of applying themselves.
  • They are prepared to discuss their abilities and goals at the interview instead of just reciting it from the resume.

In most cases you’ll have to do a three-step process when interviewing candidates. If a candidate does not meet your expectations at any point during the interview process, do not move on to the next step.

  1.   The first step is generally a telephone interview focusing on basic topics about the person.
  2. The next phase would include a personal in-depth interview.
  3. The final phase would be a practical demonstration of basic skills including; handling, prepping, bathing, drying, and executing a simple haircut on a small to medium-sized dog.

Hiring is never easy. It takes time and effort to find the right candidate for your team.

As you’re going through the hiring process always remember this. Here is most important element to look for when hiring.  Look for someone who is compassionate and passionate. No matter how talented a person may be, without compassion and passion, he or she will not be much of an asset to your grooming business.

 Happy Trimming!

~Melissa


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