Tricks to Keep Your Appointment Book Full – Great Ideas to Stay Busy All Year Long

When your appointment book is totally full, how does that make you feel? For most of us, it’s a sense of security. It’s a source of pride. It’s a guarantee that you are satisfying your customers’ needs. You are doing a good job.

But how do you feel when that appointment book has empty slots? Maybe you are just starting out on your own and have an open book. Maybe you are new to the salon and need to build a fresh clientele. Or maybe you have been at your salon for a while, yet you’re just not getting traction with repeat customers.

Long-time pet stylists know this unspoken rule: a full appointment book offers job security.

So if your appointment book is lighter than what you would like, how are you going to fix it?

Here are a few ideas to help you boost your number of daily grooming appointments.


If you went to a restaurant and the server did not hand you a menu, how would you know what to order? Pet grooming is very similar. Owners know they’re coming to you to get their dog cleaned up, but they probably don’t know all the services that you offer. Services that could help them keep their pet looking and feeling great.

A well-organized service menu makes it easy for the client to select a service. As a bonus, it also makes it very easy for you discuss optional services such as de-shedding treatments, shampoo upgrades, skin conditioning treatments, tooth brushing, nail filing, or other add-on services.

A service menu allows you to quickly summarize maintenance grooming services. Use it to  highlight the benefits of regular professional grooming appointments. This is a great place to outline the suggested frequency of appointments. Depending on a number of factors, most pets benefit from being groomed every 3 to 6 weeks.  Others may benefit from weekly or biweekly appointments. Having a comprehensive service menu makes it easy to rebook clients on a regular basis.


Actively encouraging clients to reschedule on a regular basis ensures that a salon will have a steady stream of clients. Plus, the pets will be in the best possible condition.<

Rebooking and rescheduling is all about helping your clients keep their pet looking and feeling its best. It’s about helping them understand the hygienic needs of their dog or cat, such as why it’s important to properly brush and bathe their pet between visits. Those are the goals. You are a problem solver. If they do not want to do the tasks necessary to maintain their pets at home, they will turn to you to do the job for them. Education is the key.

There are number of ways to rebook that next appointment:

  • on the spot.
  • reminder calls.
  • wake-up calls.
  • e-mail blasts.

Rebooking on the Spot

Referral card example.

Referral card example.

Offering to schedule an appointment at checkout is the best way to get a client to rebook. Develop a couple different scripts and use the one that best fits the needs of that client. For best results, use the tips below.

  • Ask every time. Think of fast food chains. They ask you every time if you would like something else with your order – every time. When the client checks out, offer to rebook their next appointment to ensure their pet continues to look amazing.
  • For the busy or in demand pet stylist, reschedule a number of appointments at once or book the entire year. This will guarantee the client will get the premiere dates they are looking for.
  • In areas that are price sensitive, offer incentives. Maybe it’s $5 off their next grooming if they book within six weeks or less. Or maybe you offer them free upsells like tooth brushing or a spa package upgrade.

Reminder Calls – If the Client Does Not Rebook on the Spot

Discount card example.

Discount card example.

Ask the client if they’d like a Reminder Call a week before “Buffy” would be due for his next appointment. This could be done via phone, e-mail, or text message.

Wake-Up Calls

Actively call clients that have not returned to the salon in 8-12 weeks.

E-mail Blasts

This is a great way to market to existing clients. If you are going into a slow day or week, offer an incentive to get clients in the door for those days.


Incentive coupon example.

Incentive coupon example.

Rebooking is something you must do regularly – the same way – every time. Make it a habit to ask if they want to rebook at check-out. If they don’t, make sure to call and remind them one week prior to the preferred grooming time for their pet and don’t forget to do the Wake-Up calls once a month for any client you haven’t seen in 8-12 weeks.


People are physiologically wired to make referrals. Many businesses can grow and flourish just by tapping into this business building strategy.

Referrals come from a number of different sources:

  • existing clients.
  • other service providers.
  • pet professionals.
Welcome flyer example.

Welcome flyer example.

Existing Clients

  • Encourage them to pass out your business cards. Let them know you are looking for more great clients like them. Always keep a supply within easy reach and generously hand them out to clients.
  • Use an incentive-based referral program. Offer a discount for first time clients PLUS give the same discount to the client that referred them. You give them even more reason to pass your name around – plus – it’s a great way to thank them for the referral!

Other Service Providers

  • hairdresser
  • local pizza joint
  • coffee shop
  • anywhere people gather and talk

Leave a stack of Discount Incentive cards with the owner or someone who is happy to pass them out. Code the back so you know where they came from – that way you don’t have to ask the customer when they turn them in. You do want to track where the cards are coming from so you can thank the service provider in an appropriate fashion.

Pet Professionals

  • vets
  • pet supply businesses
  • rescue organizations
  • trainers
  • pet sitters

Leave them with a basic welcome package they can hand out to clients that would benefit from your service. Participate in and support their events. They are more like to refer and support you in return. Offer a thoughtful thank you gift to those that refer you on a regular basis. Food or flowers never go out of style but there are many options.

Happy trimming!



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Melissa’s Top 10 Ways to Build a Strong Clientele

Anxiety-Disorder-SymptomsAre you thinking of opening a new shop where there isn’t a grooming salon or expanding into a new market area with your mobile unit? You are probably giddy with excitement over the prospect of all those new clients.

Watching that superstore getting ready for its grand opening? You are probably worried that you’ll lose clients.

Are you fretting over how much to raise your prices? You are probably agonizing over how many clients will look for other options to get their dogs groomed.

These are real worries.

Your current and prospective clients have four options.

  1. Use your service
  2. Use a competitors service
  3. Do it themselves
  4. Not do it at all

Sometimes the biggest challenge you have with building a clientele is not your competitors – it’s your prospects.

So how do you win clients over? How do you encourage them to patronize YOUR place of business?  Simple.  Stand out in a positive way!

My Top Ten List ways to start winning clients today.

  1. Build compassion and trust with pets and their owners
  2. Look, speak, and act like a professional
  3. Keep it clean and organized
  4. Always do more for the client than they can do for themselves
  5. Never stop learning and growing
  6. Safety first!
  7. Keep a comprehensive service menu with fair pricing (that does not mean cheap!)
  8. Be consistent
  9. Have a strong web and social media presence
  10. Smile – it’s the best sales tool you have (and it’s even better when you make the client smile!)

1Think about these items. How can you make them unique to YOU? Each one of us is an individual. We all have strengths and weakness. The key to success is to play upon your strengths.

When you are a solo stylist and own your own business, you have to be good at everything. Once you start to grow, that generally means hiring help. When you hire someone, don’t look for a carbon copy of yourself. Instead, look for someone who can complement your personality and work ethic. They will play off your strengths and offset your weakness.

No matter how well you do your job, the client needs to perceive the value of the grooming they receive on their pet.  It does not matter if YOU think you are giving great service – the client has to KNOW that.

They have to value that great service. If they don’t – they will look elsewhere to get their needs met. And many times, that means you are competing with the prospect themselves.

Happy trimming!



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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.


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.


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


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


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


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!



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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!



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