Paying Groomers – What is Fair?

How and what professional groomers get paid is always a hot topic. There are so many variables:

  • Hourly?
  • Commission?
  • Pay rates?

MoneyOver the years I’ve tested just about every possible combination of scenarios to try to determine what was fair, what worked, and what didn’t.

When I started my first business, I groomed in the vans right beside my mobile groomers. My team earned 50% commission of the grooming charges. We also had an extra “house call charge” for the front door service per stop (not per dog).

My mobile fleet grew from one van to six in about five years. Plus, I added a grooming salon to the mix. We were busy all the time. However, every once in a while, cash got tight.

Have you ever been there?

As we grew, the cash flow would have high and low swings. When the swing went up, it was fun, and I could reinvest in the company. I would buy another van and pay for continuing education for both myself and my team. We celebrated when we met sales quotas.

Occasionally, I would struggle to make a payment. If catching up got too deep and available cash got tight, I would grab a credit card. In those moments, I needed to keep the vans on the road and take care of expenses no matter how high the interest rates.

The busier we got, the less I paid attention to the finances. After all, we were all working and bringing in money. It was inconceivable to think we wouldn’t have enough money to pay the bills or commission.

Quote In A CircleBut then it happened.

A payroll check bounced. The lights got turned off. The phone service got shut off.

Each of these stressful, embarrassing, and terrifying moments are the hard lessons many business owners face.

Early in my career, I didn’t pay attention to the financial health of my business. It was a painful lesson I needed to learn the hard way. I was losing sleep over it and after more than one negative incident, I vowed never to let it happen again.

Detailed bookkeeping wasn’t my forte – I would rather have been grooming. However, I bit the bullet and invested in a bookkeeper. She was much wiser than I when it came to money matters. She made sense of the income and the expenses and I started paying attention to my cash flow.

We worked closely together and each month she would create a profit and loss statement for me. It would contain all the standard categories along with monthly and year-to-date figures. Plus, she added a column that tracked the percentage of expenses to sales.

The percentages were critical. No matter how rapidly we grew, I started to see trends in the percentages. It allowed me to easily track the fiscal health of my companies at a glance.

Early in my first mobile business, the only thing really saving the company was the house call charge on top of the grooming fee. Little did I realize how detrimental a 50% commission rate was to the health of a business. It’s very hard to run a profitable company when you pay out almost half of your grooming revenue.

It’s even more challenging if you had W-2 employees vs. independent contractors (but that’s a whole ‘nother blog!). In the state of Michigan, an estimated 13% was paid in payroll tax obligations for my staff based on their wages.

Look at the chart below. If you are a commissioned groomer/stylist, find your rate. Next, find your average price per dog. For example, if you earn a 50% commission rate and the average ticket price of the dog is $50, you would be earning $25 per dog.

CHART_1

Did you find your place on the chart?

Notice what happens to the earning potential when pets are priced higher, yet the commission rate is lower?

Where would you rather work – at a salon with lower-priced dogs but at the 50% rate or at a higher priced salon with a lower commission?

The commission rate isn’t the true barometer of your earning potential. The price per dog combined with the commission rate is what you need to look at. Even if a commission rate is 38% but the average ticket price is $70, you would be earning $1.60 MORE than the 50% commission rate at $50 average grooming price.

Don’t get hung up on the commission rate. Pay attention to the average price per pet COMBINED with a commission rate. Then, do the math. It might surprise you!

In the next set of charts, I want to demonstrate what happens to a business paying out a 50% commission rate to employees. In these examples, I have simplified salon expenses. Most salons will have a longer list of expenses. The examples show how the numbers would play out over the course of a year. As you look through the amounts, notice what happens.

A

I have used a 50% commission rate for salon generating $150,000 per year.

B

The salon is generating $210,000 annually while paying out a commission of 50% to the groomers.

C

The salon is still generating $150,000 per year but now the commission rate has fallen to 44%.

D

The grooming commission rate is 44% but the average ticket price increased per dog, earning the salon $210,000 annually.

In example A, the salon is clearing $5,910 for the entire year or less than $500 each month.

If you are a salon owner, I’m guessing you did not get into business to run a nonprofit company. In this scenario, that’s pretty much what’s happening. Remember, I simplified the outgoing costs of the businesses. Most salons will have more bills to pay than reflected in this example.

If you are an employee working at a salon paying 50%, you feel it every day. The lack of cash flow filters through. Chances are, the salon struggles to make ends meet. It has to cut corners. One financial hiccup can send it into a downward spiral.

The only way a 50% commission-based salon can truly make ends meet is if the salon owner is also one of the groomers. Another option is to have other streams of income other than just grooming.

Raising prices and dropping the commission rates is in the best interest of a business. It creates a cash flow buffer which takes the pressure off everything and everyone. It allows the business to thrive instead of struggle. It allows for higher-quality products, equipment, and education. These items make the workspace more enjoyable while minimizing burnout and maximizing quality.

Most salon owners and their employees are among the most passionate people I know. We’re hard workers and love pets. Owners and staff need to work together as a team. Everyone needs to understand what the numbers look like in order to have an enjoyable work environment.

My professional grooming department at Whiskers Resort & Pet Spa currently runs with a team of seven stylists and three grooming assistants. The team has both full- and part-time employees. The sliding-scale commission rates range from 38% – 44% for full grooms based on client satisfaction, rebooking, and financial quotas. Stylists earn lower commissions on simple bath and brush pets requiring less time. Stylists can bounce up and down the tier system based on the previous quarter’s performance. Grooming assistants are paid hourly based on experience and performance. On average, the grooming department’s commission payroll runs between 36% and 43% of gross sales. With lower commission rates, we can afford to pay the assistants and a portion of the customer service team that books all the grooming appointments.

Even with lower commissions, the average ticket price runs between $65 and $70 per dog. Based on personal motivation and experience, stylists groom an average six to 12 dogs a day. As a bonus, on a typical day, a stylist can also earn anywhere from $30 – $80 in tips on top of their commission rates. This department is flourishing, and the turnover is extremely low.

Salon owners, if you don’t have a firm handle on how the dollars stack up, I encourage you to track them and pay attention. If you don’t want to deal with it yourself (like me!), hire a bookkeeper. Then work closely with them and learn. They love to tinker with numbers the same way we like to tinker with dogs!

I encourage you to compare the charts. Check out the numbers. Think about how you fit within these examples. Then run your OWN numbers and see how you stack up. It does not matter whether you are the salon owner or a commissioned stylist. The numbers don’t lie and are the key to EVERYONE’S financial health and success.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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Bubble Baths and the Holiday Grooming Rush?

If you have a reasonably busy salon and have been at this for a few years, you know the holidays mean crunch time. You’ll be grooming most of your regular clients in days instead of weeks. Do you have control of your schedule?

main image tubYou may find yourself racing to juggle the demands of your business and your family. Keeping your customers happy is crucial to the health of your salon, but not at the expense of those you love. Don’t let the insanity of the holiday season put a damper on your festive mood.

I learned the hard way. Grooming super long hours up to 14 days straight before Christmas left me totally exhausted and spent. 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 are a few ideas from myself and my team of seasoned grooming pros to help you make the most of the holiday rush.

Be Prepared with Dispensable Products

Make sure all your supplies are stocked up and organized. The last thing you want is to run out of anything! Here is a shopping list to help you.

blog list

Walk around your salon well ahead of the rush. Open doors, look in cabinets, and check drawers. You want to have everything stocked up and at your fingertips. There’s nothing better than doing a thorough walk-through and making a list of supplies you need.

Stick to Your Schedule

Plan out your days. Just prior to a major holiday, the demands on your schedule can quickly spiral out of control. Do you want to work your normal schedule or add on a few hours here or there? Some professionals add work days to their week to accommodate clients. The choice is yours. Whatever you decide, make sure your best clients are pre-scheduled in premier slots in your appointment book. Ideally, it’s best to do this well before the holiday season hits.

Know your limitations. Know what your obligations are to your clients and family. Create a schedule that works for you – and then stick to it. It’s okay to say no.

Quote In A CircleFood Is Your Fuel

As tempting as it may be, surviving the holiday rush on the wonderful food gifts your clients bring is not the best option! Early in my career, I learned the hard way that cookies, candies, nuts, and other holiday treats can’t help you operate at peak performance.

Eat. Real. Food. If it comes from a window at a drive-through, it does not qualify as real food, in my book. Equally important, attempt to bypass any processed foods.

Prepare. Shop the perimeter of your grocery store. Focus on fresh foods. Take a day to prepare large batches of healthy food. Then pre-package it in individual servings. Freeze anything you can.

Cook ahead of time. Never tried batch cooking before? There are plenty of ideas on Pinterest and YouTube. Or simply double or triple your favorite recipes. Personally, my attitude is if I’m going to cook, I’m going to fill the grill, load up the oven or pull out my largest pot. It doesn’t take much more time to double or triple a recipe once you get started.

Make good choices. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s fast and easy to eat. Juices and smoothies are great on-the-go items. Hard-boiled eggs are economical and easy. Sliced fruits, veggies, and lean proteins keep energy levels high. Drink plenty of water.

Know your options. If you don’t want to do the cooking yourself, stock up on menus from your favorite restaurants and choose healthier items that help you maintain a consistent energy flow throughout the day.

Train Your Clients

Some days you have time to visit with your clients. However, the holiday season is not one of them. Train them to respect your time – even if you are mobile. It’s your responsibility to make sure every pet gets your full attention and it’ll be hard to do that if you’re running behind all day.

There are ways to tactfully and politely remind them you have an extremely busy schedule. A big smile and a genuine thank you can go a long way when you need to keep moving.

holiday-stressTake Time to Breathe

The holidays are a special time. Not just for your family, friends, and your clients – but also for yourself. It’s important to reserve quality time for every part of your life.

Having grooming systems firmly in place allows you to be highly efficient. The more seasoned you are, the more likely you have mastered this technique. It comes in handy when your time is limited.

Essential oils can use helpful to energize yourself or slow yourself down. Some brands come up with blends or you can make your own. They can be diffused in the air, inhaled directly from their bottles, or added to bath water. Many oils can be applied directly to the skin.

Common oils for relaxation would be lavender, lemon, ylang-ylang, geranium, and frankincense. A few essential oils used to increase energy are peppermint, white fur, lemon, and basil. Many of the citrus based oils have the ability to uplift and de-stress.

Carve out a little special time for yourself. Maybe it’s a soothing bubble bath at the end of a long day. Some people love massages or manicures. Others enjoy sitting down for a few quiet minutes to decompress with a beverage of choice.

The holiday season can be magical – even if it is one of your busiest times. The best way to ward off being a Scrooge is to do some planning. Think about the upcoming weeks leading to the new year. Take control. Put pen to paper and plan your schedule. Know where the crunch times are and when you have a window of space.

A little bit of thought and planning can go a long way to make the holiday season both financially rewarding, personally enjoyable, and filled with blessings and gratitude.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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Are You Taking Care of Your Best Customers?

CSRIt’s hard to believe, but the major holidays are just around the corner. What does your appointment book look like? Are you booked out until after the holidays?

If you are, CONGRATULATIONS!  Give yourself a huge pat on the back. Being proactive with your schedule feels great, doesn’t it?

If you’re still trying to fill holes in your schedule, there’s a question I’d like to ask.

Do you know who your most valuable clients are? Whether you are a solo flyer or work with a team, you can benefit from knowing what type of client brings in the most revenue.

When it comes to the busy holiday season, knowing how to prioritize appointments can be very helpful. As much as we would like to get to every client, there are only so many hours in a day. It can be hard to decide who gets appointments and who gets turned away.

This chart might help you determine who your most valuable clients are. Typically, it’s not the client paying the most money per groom.

tableLook at the revenue generation on the one, two, and three-week clients. Even with heavily reduced grooming fees, it’s amazing how $20 can add up week after week!

I’m not saying this is what you should be charging for your dogs. I’m just giving you an example. You can see how the numbers works out. Test the numbers using your own pricing averages.

Quote In A CircleOne of my companies automatically gives a five-dollar discount for clients that book every 4 to 6 weeks. Once they get under three weeks, the discount is even bigger. This is great for keeping the books full – and the dogs stay in good condition all year long.

It’s pretty amazing once you see the math, right? Hopefully, it gives you clarity on who should get those premier appointments spots.

Let me ask you this: is it fair to either the client – or to you – to take an eight-week client over someone you see every four weeks? What about a four-week client over a weekly client? Ultimately, the choice is yours, but I know who I’d pick!

When booking appointments, start with the clients you see most often. Reward their loyalty with the best appointment slots.

Take care of your weekly and biweekly clients first. Then move into your three-week clients. If they don’t have appointments, reach out to them in whatever method works best for your business – call, text, or email. With any luck, the last two appointment days before the major holiday(s) will filled with your regulars. Those days will be a breeze for you.

Once those clients are taken care of, start booking your four-week clients and continue down the line. By the time you’re done, you’ll know you’ve taken care of your most valuable clients in a way that is both systematic and fair. If you still have slots available, go ahead and fill them in as the phone rings.

If you are using this system to book six month to a year out, make sure you communicate with your clients. They should know when you’re unavailable due to vacations, family obligations, educational events, or peak grooming times. Helpfully offer them alternatives so their pets stay in excellent condition. You may need to be more flexible on times or even offer to have a substitute stylist when you are not available.

The holidays are always a blur! If you’re overworked, underappreciated, and totally worn out for your close friends and family you won’t enjoy the holidays. You need to make the time for yourself and those you love. I can still hear the disappointment in my mother’s voice when I was so exhausted from grooming, I could not make it to our traditional Christmas Eve family gathering.

This prioritizing system helped immensely. Being a little more organized and proactive meant I could take care of my best clients and still have the energy to enjoy the holidays with my family.

Don’t limit yourself – you can use the system to fill your books all year round. Ultimately, it depends on how in demand you are and how busy your schedule is.

Whatever way you implement the system, it’s a great way to take care of your best customers. Take care of them and they’ll take care of you. Most importantly, you’ll both be taking the best care of the pets you love.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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The Importance of Rebooking Appointments

Rebooking clients is one of the easiest ways for groomers and pet stylists to boost their income. Encouraging clients to rebook on the day of their service will help keep a steady stream of pets coming into your salon.

cozy petClients that rebook before they leave return on a much more frequent basis than those who do not. Let’s face it – life gets busy. Personally, if I did not rebook my own hair appointment before I left the beauty salon, I’d be there a lot less frequently than every five or six weeks! Our pet owning clients are no different.

Many groomers don’t encourage their customers to rebook their pet’s next grooming. They think the client will come back when they are ready. While that may be true, it’s more likely the client will not return as often as they should.

As a professional, it is up to us to educate our clients how often they should return based on:

  • hygienic needs of the pet
  • coat condition
  • trim style
  • activity level
  • level of home maintenance between appointments

Most pets that are considered a part of the family require regular grooming. These owners share their lives, their homes, and sometimes even their beds with their four-legged family member. These pets benefit from weekly or bi-weekly bathing. Ideally, pets that require haircuts should be trimmed every 4 to 6 weeks. How often you handle hand stripped pets will vary based on the coat type and the technique used to strip out the dead coat. These dogs will need to be groomed weekly to a couple of times a year.

Pet professionals who understand the impact of rebooking realize that is not just a courtesy, it’s an important business building strategy. Educate your clients about the rebooking process. Encourage them to set aside time to keep their pet’s coat in peak condition.

Circle Steps

Here are 4 Tips to Ensure Your Clients are Rebooking with Every Visit

  1. Stress Maintaining a Schedule – As a professional pet stylist, it’s your job to educate your client. You know what it takes to keep their pet’s coat in peak condition. Find out how the client would ideally like their dog to look and learn their budget. Talk to them about how much at-home care they are willing to do between grooming appointments. Discuss the lifestyle of the pet. Once you know the answers to those questions, you can suggest the ideal number of weeks the pet should go between professional grooming appointments.
  2. Suggest Dates – Don’t just ask the client if they would like to rebook their next appointment. Suggest an ideal appointment date when you should see them again and have your calendar ready to set that appointment. If the client is hesitant, politely informing him that the best spots are already being filled can often help him make the decision to arrange for the appointment before he loses out to someone else.
  3. Offer an Incentive to Rebook – Small incentives can be a great way to keep clients coming back. Offer a small discount if they book their next visit within six weeks or less. Or offer them a free service with their pre-booked appointment. If they rebook weekly, bi-weekly, or every third week – offer them a special discounted rate to maintain the frequency of their visits. Do the math – you’ll probably be shocked at how steeply you can discount a weekly or bi-weekly client on their regular grooming price and still make more money on an annual basis.
  4. Train Your Staff – Rebooking is a courtesy to the client – and a benefit to you. Make sure your entire team understands the importance. The key to success is to ask EVERY client to rebook their next appointment before they leave.

Having an appointment book that is 50% to 70% pre-booked is like money in the bank. It’s a security system that allows you to breathe easily. It ensures you will not lose clients or revenue from light client bookings. It is one of the easiest ways to guarantee your income and keep your pet clients looking and feeling their best.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteDo you agree with this post? How do you encourage your clients to stay on a regular schedule? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us why or why not.