Growing Your Business? Make Room for New Customers!

Growing your business starts with two simple equations:

Marketing AmyIf you want your business to thrive in any economy, you need insurance – and repeat business is your insurance plan.

During my recent lecture about client management at a large trade show, an audience member said something so amazing I knew I had to share it with you. I wish I had caught her name so I could give her full credit for her brilliant idea.

Professional groomers are always busy when the weather is warm. Most of us are booking out two to three weeks (or more) in advance. When the weather is toasty, people always want their pets groomed. The dogs are hot, dirty, and stinky. Even the once or twice per year clients start calling.

BLOGWhere are those clients during the slower times when your appointment book needs filling? Those are the times when you wish you had more regular clients that book consistently every few weeks.

Those regular clients are your bread-and-butter. They keep your bills paid and food on your table. They are the ones you can count on. Any successful grooming salon wants a roster full of regular customers and the time to look for them is not when you’re slow. You need to get them while you’re at your busiest.

It’s not as crazy or as impossible as it sounds.

Remember that brilliant audience member? She said she always leaves at least one opening per day to accommodate walk-ins and new clients.

Some of you are shaking your heads. Why would you leave an appointment slot empty when you can fill it with a regular client? You’re probably thinking that you’re losing easy money.

Here’s where that insurance plan idea kicks in. The problem isn’t being booked out when the weather is nice. The problem is that you need to be booked no matter what kind of weather you’re having. You do that by adding clients – and when are new clients calling? The same time as everyone else.

A new client will not wait 2 or 3 weeks to book an appointment with you. They will just move on to the next groomer who set that time aside, just waiting for that client to call.

If you’ve nurtured a relationship with your regulars, they will wait for you. They love you. Their pets love you. Making sure to pre-book their next appointment ensures they get premier treatment and the best appointment times. The long-term investment you’ve made in keeping these customers happy will now start to pay off.

Setting aside those five slots a week is how that lady in the audience maintains a constant stream of new clients. These walk-ins become customers that she can educate and count on during the slower times of the year. As she builds up her regular clientele, she can eliminate the once or twice a year dogs. After all, wouldn’t you rather work on a super regular client instead of a twice a year outdoor farm dog?

Quote In A Circle$100 for a once a year farm dog seems like a lot of money – but is it?

Let’s say you have a 6-week regular client who pays $50 per visit. That’s half of the once a year farm dog. You are going to see that client eight to nine times a year. On an annual basis, you’re going to earn between $400 and $450 for that single client.

The farm dog? You will earn $100. $100 you can’t count on next month or next year.

Which would you rather do?

If you do not make time in your schedule to take on new customers, you might miss out on adding a valuable client that will keep your bills paid when it’s slow. This client could make the difference between working or being sent home because you don’t have any dogs to groom.

Which salon would you rather work at?

As a bonus, making room in an already packed schedule allows you some wiggle room. Maybe you don’t have a walk-in on that day. Or maybe you don’t have a new customer calling to book an appointment. That open slot allows you a little breathing room. Probably at a time when you most need it.

Do you have to take every first-time appointment or walk-in coming through your doors? Absolutely not.

I would ask for some critical information before you get too far into the conversation. Of course, the customer will want to know the price. That gives you the opportunity to learn the breed, the age, the size, the coat condition, and how long it’s been since his last professional grooming. These questions will help you determine whether you should book the appointment. Trust your gut with what the client says. It’s your appointment book.

When you do make room for a new client, make sure you also take the time to educate them. Most clients don’t know how frequently they should have their dogs (or cats) groomed. Talk to them about their lifestyle and how much maintenance they’re willing to do between appointments. Talk about what you can do for them as well their limitations based on the condition of the pet. Custom create a regular schedule that will suit their needs and keep their pet looking and feeling its best.

Will you get it right every time? No. But if you don’t make room for prospective new customers during your busiest times, you won’t have regular clients to carry you through when it’s slow.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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5 Steps to Mastering Any Skill

Mastering SkillsLearning to master skills helps us get ahead in our work and lives. To do this you need to have a deep understanding of the skill you are trying to perfect. You also need the dedication to put in the needed time and deliberate practice.

“Deliberate practice,” was introduced by researcher, Anders Ericsson who studied this concept for over 30 years. His research shows HOW you practice matters much more than HOW MUCH you practice.

Deliberate practice isn’t running a few miles each day, strumming a guitar for 20 minutes each morning, or grooming a few dogs each day. Deliberate practice is much more purposeful and focused. It might take you five to ten years of deliberate practice to truly master a skill.

To improve anything, you must push beyond your comfort zone. This process can be very difficult. Letting go of what is safe and learning to get comfortable with the unknown is hard for most of us. For some, it is impossible. But when you put sincere effort toward improving a weakness, you will grow.

To become great, experts focus on improving their weaknesses. Practicing on easy things never leads to improvement. Working hard just to work will exhaust you. Working purposefully towards improving is the secret to success.

It doesn’t matter whether you are trying to master a specific breed profile, specialize in a grooming technique, increase your speed, or skillfully run your business. To master any task, you need to focus and practice in a purposeful way.

Here are five ideas to help you stay focused on a skill you want to master.

  1. Deliberate practice has one objective: to improve performance. According to Ericsson, “People who play tennis once a week for years don’t get any better if they do the same thing each time. Deliberate practice is about changing your performance, setting new goals and straining yourself to reach a bit higher each time.”
  2. Perfect practice makes perfect. Repetition matters. Do it repeatedly. Football legends don’t practice their specialty briefly at the end of their practice sessions. They repeat the fundamentals of their specialty hundreds of times each week.
  3. Get consistent feedback. You must monitor your progress so you can adjust. Without feedback, you won’t know how to improve. Seek out a mentor or a coach in the area you would like to master. Asked them for consistent criticism and advice.
  4. Identify your weakest area. Focus on improving your weakest skill. Then move on. Don’t beat yourself up.
  5. Be prepared. The process is going to be challenging. It will physically and mentally exhaust you. Mastery takes commitment, focus, and extreme effort.

IMG_20150430_073120When I began a career with dogs, it didn’t take long before I knew I wanted to perfect my skills. I wanted to master pet grooming. I found mentors and coaches who could give me feedback. I read books. I studied images – photos of my own work as well as champions. I intently watched master pet stylists at work. I attended clinics and workshops. I tested my skills in the certification and competition rings. I always asked for feedback and focused on improving my work. I practiced. And practiced. And practiced.

Today, I work with a business coach. Almost every week we have a 90-minute conference call. We focus on our weakest link and ways to improve it. The following week, we review what worked and what didn’t work – then move on to the next weak item on the agenda. Having a coach keeps me accountable, focused, and on track.

Remember – start small. Self-improvement can feel overwhelming. You can’t take on everything. If you do, you’ll feel defeated and never succeed at any of it. Instead, choose one or two skills to focus on at a time. Break down the skill into manageable chunks. Set goals. Get feedback and track your progress.

Along the learning journey, stop to reflect. When you want to move from good… to great… to mastery, you need to stop and spend time reflecting on what you’re doing. If you don’t, the new skill won’t stick. Talk to your mentor, coach, or someone you respect as you go. Talking about your progress assists in getting valuable feedback. It keeps you accountable and it cements the changes.

Be patient with yourself. You are not going to reach perfection right away. Mastery requires perfecting many smaller skills and then putting them all together. It could take months to perfect a single new sub-skill. It will take years to truly master a particular technique or specialize in a field.

You can use these techniques on anything you want to improve or master. Many of us can do something well. True mastery takes it to a much deeper level.

Do you have what it takes to become a master?

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat are the things you’re working to perfect every day? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.

 

What’s the Hardest Part of Running a Business?

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In my experience, the hardest part of running a business is STAFF!

Hands down the most challenging part of running a business is staffing it. Managing staff. Keeping staff. Paying staff. Keeping them accountable. Keeping them productive. Keeping them happy.

And the real biggie – training them.

So let’s tackle the training challenge first. It’s far easier to hire basic labor than filling a position that requires skill. At our kennel, the Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa, we have an endless supply of dog enthusiasts that want to work in the kennel. With multiple colleges within our community, the labor force is easy to come by. After all, everybody wants to play with puppies!

But what about those jobs that require skilled labor? People like receptionists, bathers, managers, and trainers.

One of the largest reasons I started the Paragon School of Pet Grooming was because I could not find qualified groomers to operate my fleet of mobile grooming vans. They just weren’t available. I still shudder when I think about it. There were times that I would have a van down for 6 to 12 months at a time before I could find somebody that could do the job. Not a very efficient way to run a business.

Working every day in a mobile grooming salon does not lend itself well to a training environment. It can work if you just have to add polish to a skilled professional. But to take them from scratch? Nope. It doesn’t work. You just can’t afford the time it takes to train a new groomer – especially if you rely on YOUR productivity to pay the bills. Starting a person from scratch to become a competent groomer in a mobile just does not work!

To get a groomer that can work independently – with safety and quality – will take months, not weeks, to train. After all, this is not a skill that you can quickly show somebody how to do. Grooming is not a simple task. It requires significant training.

I’ve heard some businesses offer two-week training programs for new hires. Then they turn them loose to groom “professionally.” Some circles might consider this enough, but for quality and safety, you need more.

Did you know the average person needs to see or hear something 3 to 7 times before it actually sinks in? And that’s for an average learner. Sure, star performers might pick it up after the first or second try – but those people are few and far between. Most of us fall in the average category. We have to see or do the same task repeatedly before we do it correctly.

I’ve been in the pet care industry for over 30 years – primarily in the grooming aspect of the industry. Finding qualified groomers remains the number one problem in our field.

TrainingFinding talented grooming help was close to impossible was when I first stepped up to the grooming table in 1979 – and it remains the same problem today. I have chosen to focus on this critical problem. I own multiple companies in the pet industry. On the educational side, my companies aid in training and personal development for those stepping into the field for the first time as well as for aspiring pet groomers and stylists.

It has always been extremely easy to enter the field of pet grooming. There are very few regulations of any sort. Anybody can start bathing and cutting hair off a dog or cat, and call themselves a professional pet groomer. Those of us that have spent years perfecting our craft know it takes time and dedication to become confident and competent in all breed grooming. It takes years of practice and study.

Some of the ways that I have found to become a real professional include:

  • Studying the AKC Complete Dog Book or your national all breed book
  • Reading books produced by breed and/or industry specialists
  • Attending workshops and clinics hosted by industry leaders
  • Attending a grooming school – many have multiple programs from which to choose
  • Taking an online course from a reputable institution
  • Attending continued education training at qualified grooming schools
  • Watching videos produced by leading pet professionals

Even graduates coming out of quality grooming schools are not truly proficient. If they have graduated with above average GPA’s, they have given themselves a great foundation. It is the starting point of their career – but they are far from being a polished professional. They still need guidance. They still need coaching. They still need mentoring. They still need to study. And most of all – they need to practice A LOT!

featured-classifiedSo let’s get back to that hiring challenge. If you’re faced with having to hire a groomer, know what to look for. One thing I recommend is Attitude. Attitude. Attitude. I always look for somebody who’s got a positive, upbeat attitude. Someone who is receptive to new information. They need to be moldable. Adaptable. And they cannot be afraid of hard work. I hire on potential, not necessarily experience.

Once you have someone with a great attitude, helping them be best they can be is fun – and it can be very gratifying. Use the resources available to help them self-direct their own learning.  It will take time, dedication, and patience before you see your new hire flourish but you can lighten your training load by taking advantage of many educational resources currently available. You might learn a thing or two yourself.

It amazes me that our industry has not advanced more in this area. Sure, there are more grooming schools than ever was before. Yes, there are certification organizations out there – but they’re still voluntary. Licensing, in some states is starting to catch on. However, we’re still a long way from having even a basic comprehensive licensing program in place for pet groomers and salon owners. The road before us is wide open with possibilities.

Will you help us blaze the trail?

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat are the biggest training issues you see every day? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.

 

The Art of Giving Great Service – The Zingerman Way

bookAbout 6 years ago I read a great book while sailing on my dad’s boat. It was Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 1: Building a Great Business.  At one point, my dad picked up the book. He read a few paragraphs I had highlighted when I went below. When I returned a few minutes later, he said, “Good book. They know what they are talking about.” Wow. Coming from my dad, that meant a lot.

Zingerman’s is an institution in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Hailed by Inc. Magazine as The coolest small company in America,” the original business was founded in 1982 with Zingerman’s Delicatessen. Since then, Zingerman’s has expanded to 11 food-related business, 724 staff members, and sales of over $62 million.

Service is a cornerstone of Zingerman’s success. Zingerman’s has earned its reputation for great service by intentionally creating a culture that nurtures amazing service. They teach every one of their team members system “recipes” which are at the heart of their extraordinary service.

I was so impressed with the book, I ordered copies for all my team leaders!

At Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa, we really rolled up our sleeves. We took the summer to read the entire book together. Once a week we met to review, strategize, and implement what we learned from the pages.

When we started Zingerman’s training in 2011, we were earning about $655,000 in annual gross sales between overnight lodging, daycare, and grooming. Last year we grossed just short of $2.25 million. And the real kicker – we spent virtually nothing on advertising! Our growth has been fueled by stellar customer service from an amazing team of enthusiastic, pet-loving staff.

I know the Zingerman’s training isn’t totally responsible for the growth. However, I’d like to think it helped us formulate a positive culture for our Whiskers team.

Recently, we learned ZingTrain was coming to Grand Rapids for a half day of service training. We could not sign up fast enough. We had 13 team members there from all facets of my companies taking up two corporate tables. We all walked away pumped up and energized! Some of what we learned was a refresher for some of us – for others is was all new. Plus, it was refreshing to learn new service ideas the Zingerman team had formulated since we read the book. The concepts are all easy to implement, too.

I’d like to share a few of those with you.

Zingerman’s 3 Steps to Great Service

zingerman#1. Figure out what the customer wants.

  • Ask questions. Listen to what they really want. Give choices. Repeat questions back to the customer for clarity and understanding.
  • 10/4 Rule. When you get within 10 feet of either a customer or a coworker– make eye contact and smile. Once you get within 4 feet of a customer or coworker, verbally exchange a positive comment. (I’m not talking about those that you work with side-by-side all day long – however a room full of smiles and positive interaction is energizing).
  • Spend as much time as necessary to positively impact the customer. For repeat customers, it might be a quick exchange. For new customers, it’s going to take longer to help build a relationship, form a bond, and build trust.

#2. Get it – or do it – for them…

  • Let people know realistic deadlines, cost estimates, and realistic outcomes. Be specific. Under promise and over deliver.
  • Always say please and thank you. Avoid industry jargon.
  • You want the customer to leave feeling like the interaction with you was the best part of their day.

#3. Go the extra mile.

  • Do something the client didn’t ask for and didn’t expect. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It doesn’t have to be costly. Even simple things can delight and pleasantly surprise your customers.

Within this framework, employees use their own best judgment about how to serve each individual customer.

If you’ve never heard of Zingerman’s or ZingTrain, I encourage you to look it up. If you want to dig in deep, grab the book and apply its principles. If you need a quick pick me up, participate in one of the mini sessions like we did today. Their systems approach is applicable to businesses of varying industries, organizational structure, and size. They are committed to helping others succeed.

You can learn more about their training programs at www.zingtrain.com. You can get the book at the best price by ordering directly from Zingerman’s www.zingtrain.com/building-a-great-business

My entire team left energized and ready to implement many ideas immediately. We were all impacted by the training we received. Hats off to the Zingerman team of Elnian Gilbert and Tabatha Mason and to the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce for sponsoring the program!

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat did you think about these ideas? What do you do that works great for your team? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.