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 hay field. 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 hay field. 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!

clippersYou’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 has 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

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat did you think about these ideas? What do you do that works great for you? 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.

Shredding Shedding Problems

????????This is the time of year the big shedding breeds come in. They’re often the ones that haven’t been groomed in FOREVER. You know the ones – Goldens…arctic-type breeds…Saint Bernards. They have that coat that totally trashes your salon – and maybe even you. There are tricks to getting this type of job done without too much agony.  For anyone who’s missed this blog in the past – it’s a perfect time to revisit my blog on salvage work.

As many of you know, I’m a big dog person.  Working on these large furry dogs is one of my favorite things to do in a grooming salon.  Call me crazy – but I just love the transformation in this type of job.  Over the years, the process rarely makes me cringe, no matter the size or condition of the dog – I see it as a fun challenge!

My #1 rule: Never work on a dirty dog. If water can penetrate the coat, let your products do the job.

Working on a dirty dog is not only unpleasant, it also takes longer to do.  Plus, there will be a lot of coat damage and breakage.  A dirty coat is dry and brittle. The dirt and dander trapped within the fur makes it more difficult to brush out. Working on a clean coat will be easier for both you and the pet – and much more pleasant.

If there are large chunks that water cannot penetrate, go ahead and break up the tangle using the tool safe for the pet.  Don’t worry about removing the tangle completely, just break it apart so the water and shampoo can do its job.

Prepare your bathing area.  If the dog is exceptionally dirty, use a shampoo especially designed for dirty dogs.  Using a follow-up treatment of a skin and coat conditioner after bathing twice (or maybe three times in some areas) will assist with the brush out and dead coat removal during the drying process.  Make sure you have all the tools you’ll need to aid in getting the dog clean like rubber curries or scrub brushes.  And make sure you have plenty of towels handy.  To see my video lesson on salvage work at Learn2GroomDogs.com, click here.

SONY DSCMy favorite trick when working with this type of job is to bring my high velocity dryer right into the bathing area (bring your eye and ear protection, too!).  With the dog fully lathered, blow the shampoo right off the pet while it is tethered in the tub.  The slippery soap will allow the dirt, loose coat, and tangles slide out. It’s the same principle as applying soap to get a tight ring off your finger. It speeds up the entire process when it comes to mats, tangles, and shedding coat if you get the product right down to the skin.

As you work the high velocity dryer over the soapy dog, the loose coat and shampoo will stick to the back wall of the tub, minimizing the mess.

Not all the shedding coat or mats will be removed – but a lot will – making your job easier once you transfer the pet to the drying table.

Once you have blown out the pet, follow-up with the rinsing process.  Repeat this process as many times as necessary to get the dog “squeaky clean.”

Once the pet is clean and thoroughly rinsed, apply a skin and coat conditioning treatment before heading to the drying table.  Read your directions: some conditioning treatments need to be rinsed out while others do not. Your high velocity dryer and a heavy slicker brush will be your best friends during the drying process.

Rule # 2: Be Methodical and Thorough on the Drying Table

First, blow out as much moisture and loose coat at possible with the air flow.  Use the highest power setting the pet is comfortable with and a condenser cone.  Once you have “pushed” as much water and loose fur from the pet, remove the condenser cone. Bring the air flow close to the pet’s skin.  “Boost” any loose coat out of the dog by lightly patting the area with a slicker brush right where the air is striking the skin.

Continue to work over the dog in a methodical manner until your brush glides through the coat easily and no more loose coat is trapped in the brush. Double check your work with both your hands and a wide tooth comb.

hand-with-thumb-upRule #3: Be Proud of Your Work!

When the dog is complete, it should smell clean and fresh.  The coat should be glossy and float freely as the dog moves.  There should be an irresistible desire to reach down and bury your hands in a freshly groomed pet.

To me, this is one of the most gratifying types of grooming jobs we do. It’s relatively easy but it does require knowledge and skill to be thorough and efficient. Oh, and the right tools including one – or maybe even two – powerful velocity dryers!

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat are your tricks for deshedding the big jobs? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.  Post your pictures of those messy salvage jobs for a chance to win a free monthly subscription to Learn2GroomDogs.com!

 

What Type of Grooming Do You Do?

Quote ThisMy educational team recently visited a local grooming salon. When they came back, they shared a comment made by the staff of the salon.

“We don’t do show grooms, it’s not what our customers want.”

I thought to myself, “Okay, but I don’t do ‘show grooms,’ either.” I never have. Nor do I teach show grooming. Very few of my products showcase show grooming – not the books, the Distance Learning Program, The Salon Mentoring Program, or the on-site programs taught at the Paragon School of Pet Grooming. None of them focus on show grooming. 90% of the videos from Learn2GroomDogs.com showcases every day grooming jobs – from shave downs to highly stylized pet trims.

…But the comment got me thinking. What determines the type of grooming we do? It boils down to one thing: the needs and demands of our clients.

Our clients will either make us strive to new heights or allow us to settle into a less demanding routine. I see this play out clearly between two of my companies.

When I started the Paragon School of Pet Grooming in the early 90’s, the Jenison community was a perfect fit for a school. At the time, I was running a fleet of six mobile vans. We catered to the upper echelon of the community. Our prices were higher than average salon prices for the premium front door service. That clientele appreciated and was willing to pay for this type of service.

Pet GroomThe Jenison market was on the outer edge of our service area. Occasionally, we would dip our toes into that market. We quickly learned that the Jenison market valued economy. They wanted short, no-nonsense haircuts. They were amazingly frugal – and they were always on the lookout for a deal!

The Jenison market was a perfect place for a grooming school with discounted grooming prices and basic trims! For 27 years, The Paragon School has been in this location. This community takes excellent care of its pets, but it doesn’t step far outside the realms of fancy haircuts. Short, low maintenance trim styles are what this clientele wants.

The other side of town has a totally different story. When we first started talking about opening a luxury pet resort, I knew exactly where we needed to go: right to the heart of where most of our mobile clientele lived. In 2007, we opened Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa.

Our first groomers at the resort were high-end pet stylists. They were Certified Master Groomers and awarding-wining contest stylists. They set the stage for a high-end thriving grooming department. The trims were more upscale and so was the average price. Upscale grooming comes at an upscale price.

Today, Whiskers has seven grooming stations and business is booming. Rarely do we see a short, low maintenance all-trim come through the doors.

At Whiskers, the team specializes in more complex haircuts. The team does lots of breed profile trimming using pet grooming techniques. They use special products to accentuate the coat type. They hand strip. They hand scissor. They do pet trims. They even do a few show grooms. They see oodles of Doodles and lots of “designer dogs.” Don’t get me wrong, about half of the grooming jobs are still bath and brush dogs. They handle plenty of Labs and Golden Retrievers! Plus, the Whiskers grooming department sees the new, different, and unusual when it comes to breeds. This team must be on their toes. Our stylists need to be up-to-date and highly educated to meet the needs of the clientele. They do a lot of fancy haircuts!

Both businesses cater to a different clientele. They are on different career paths both for the people within the teams as well as the businesses themselves. Both businesses are successful.

Most pet grooming businesses do a bit of a crossover between no frills, low maintenance haircuts and the fuller, fancier trim styles. The personal motivation of the salon owner, local competition, as well as the clientele will ultimately dictate the type of grooming styles leaving each business.

I know many salons that specialize in low maintenance, easy trims combined with bath and brush type pets. Even though they don’t do fancy trims, they are still highly successful.

Other salons cater to a more discerning clientele. They need to have a higher skill set to stay competitive and thrive in that setting. The more knowledgeable and skillful they are, the more likely they can satisfy their clients.

Other stylists cross over into the show world where the understanding and application of structure and movement combined with sculpting the coat is critical to being in the ribbons.

Regardless of where you fall on the scale, if you are a professional pet groomer/stylist, grooming is a career. It’s not a hobby to you. You might be doing low maintenance trims that don’t require a whole lot of advance study – that’s okay! Not everybody has to do fancy trims. Each grooming business will have a signature style.

You might be at a salon where if you’re going to thrive, you need to be able to satisfy a more demanding client. You have clients who are educated and know what their dogs are supposed to look like – or WANT them to look like! Being able to apply pet grooming techniques to enhance a particular breed or an individual dog is just good business.

It’s important to remember that owners have pets for different reasons. Not all owners want a “show dog” look. They simply want a handsome family pet that is clean and well-groomed. Sometimes that means a no-frills type trim – other times, it’s a much fancier haircut.

Whatever YOUR signature style is – do it to the best of your ability with kindness and respect for the pet. It’s our job to assist the owner to care for their pet in a manner suiting the pet and their lifestyle.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat does your clientele want? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.