The Pet Grooming Field – Do You Know Where Do You Fit?

Discovering the Meaning Behind the Job Titles

Groomer.

I have always struggled with this word. Stop and think about it. Is it really the best definition for the wide variety of skills necessary to do our job? Personally, I think the term “Groomer” is too broad a term to use within our field.

Think about how the medical profession is organized… when you need a routine annual medical exam, do you book an appointment with a Podiatrist? No. You’d get an appointment at your regular clinic, where they deal primarily with routine and preventive health care. Depending on your condition, you might get an appointment with a nurse practitioner who is qualified to treat a certain spectrum of illnesses. For situations requiring more formal training and experience, you’d see your family doctor. If a health disorder required attention from an expert in a particular field of study, you would seek the help of a specialist.

Another point to ponder… how do you think their pay scale is structured? I would bet the medical specialist takes home a much larger paycheck than the nurse practitioner or even the family physician.

Let’s flip this over to what we do. Bottom line – we’re pet specialists with three distinct skill levels:

  1. Bather, Assistant, or Bathing Technician
  2. Groomer, Pet Groomer, or Grooming Technician
  3. Stylist or Pet Stylist

Here are my definitions for each of those areas.

1. Bather, Assistant, or Bathing Technician

These folks have a basic knowledge base of core grooming skills. In some cases, the Bather’s duties may cross over into other job descriptions. In many smaller salons, the Bather might act more as a personal assistant to the Groomer or Stylist. A Bather’s duties might include any task that could be easily delegated by the Groomer or Stylist so they can focus on getting dogs completed in a timely manner.

Bathers, Assistants, and Bathing Technicians should have a basic understanding of:<

  • Selection and Care of Equipment
  • Canine Psychology and Temperament
  • Safety and Sanitation
  • Anatomy
  • Pet Handling
  • Breed Identification
  • Skin and Coat Conditions
  • First Aid and CPR
  • Parasites and Their Control
  • Diseases and Preventive Vaccination
  • Nutrition
  • Common Illnesses and Skin Disorders
  • Common Grooming Products
  • Equipment Handling
  • Coat Pre-Assessment and Pre-Work
  • Bathing and Drying Skills
  • Brushing and Combing Skills
  • Mat Anatomy and Safe Removal
  • Equipment Handling
  • Nail and Feet Trimming
  • Ear Cleansing
  • Tooth Care
  • Anal Gland Expression (Optional)

Although the Bather role in a busy salon is typically considered an entry level position, in reality it’s one of the most important roles of a successful salon. If a dog is not washed perfectly and dried properly, quality work can never be achieved. No matter how talented the Groomer or Stylist is when it comes to trimming and styling pets, they will never be able to do a good job on a dirty or incorrectly dried pet. Period.

Earning Potential – Entry Level

2. Groomer, Pet Groomer, or Grooming Technician

A Groomer deals with basic grooming needs. They can get dogs clean, dried properly, and thoroughly brushed out. They can do everything the Bather does but they kick it up a few notches. Groomers can complete challenging bath and brush pets with ease. Plus, they can trim pets safely and efficiently with clippers. Groomers are comfortable with a variety of clippers and blade choices. They can handle a wide range of coat types on both bath and brush style pets as well as simple, low maintenance haircuts. They have basic knowledge of how to work with scissors and blenders, getting adequate results for non-discriminating clients.

Pet Groomers should have advanced knowledge and understanding of the previously mentioned areas and be able to work with greater speed and efficiency without sacrificing quality and safety.

The Groomer in almost any salon is the workhorse. They focus on non-nonsense, low maintenance trim styles. Their concentration is on getting the dog thoroughly brushed out, mat free, and super tidy. Trim work focuses more on the neat and clean aspect of grooming than creating highly stylized haircuts. Advanced training and continued education in this area can vastly improve grooming speed, quality, and enjoyment of the job.

Earning Potential – Mid-Range Level

3. Stylist or Pet Stylist

A Pet Stylist molds and shapes the coat in a manner that accentuates the features of the pet. They have a firm understanding of anatomy, breed profiles, as well as structure and movement. They have a firm comprehension of technical skills. An accomplished Pet Stylist can apply those skills in an artistic manner. Their personal tools are of the highest caliber, allowing them to create remarkable trims in a very short amount of time. A seasoned Stylist will often also specialize in particular breeds, grooming techniques, or personality types.

Pet Stylists should have expert knowledge and understanding of the previously mentioned areas, be able to work with greater speed and efficiency without sacrificing quality and safety, and have expert control of clippers, shears, combs, brushes, blades, and stripping knives.

Serious Pet Stylists are generally highly motivated. They advance their careers through continued education. It’s common for an aspiring Pet Stylist to seek out many forms of advanced learning. Many of them turn it into a personal goal or an enjoyable outlet. Conformation dog shows, grooming trade shows and competitions, certification testing, books and magazines, videos, clinics, workshops, private coaching and training, and canine trials are just a few areas the motivated Stylist can use to ramp up skill levels.

Earning Potential – Highest Level

The term “Groomer” is just not descriptive enough. It just doesn’t cover it all – especially if you wear multiple hats in your salon like Receptionist, Accountant, and Cleaning Crew. When a business starts to grow, layers of expertise will develop within your team.

Just like in the medical profession, the more you learn, the more you earn. The stronger your knowledge base and the more proficient you are, the more money you’re going to make. And knowledge has a wonderful side effect – confidence. Why not take steps toward building your skills and confidence every day?

Using a generic term like “Groomer” just doesn’t work for me. I bet it doesn’t work for you, either. Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us what woks best for you!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

The #1 Strategy to Build a Thriving Clientele

Marketing has always been an interesting component to running any of my companies. After all, if I don’t have customers, I don’t have a business. And if my business isn’t flourishing, I do not earn a paycheck – and speedneither do any of my team members.

Here are a couple of questions I’m asked all the time:

  • What’s your secret to creating a thriving company?
  • How do you get repeat clients?

Do you know what’s at the heart of all businesses?

People.

I don’t care how much you love the animals, it’s the people who make companies thrive. And people are experts at knowing if they FEEL valued. That goes for both your staff and your clients. If you’re working with a team of people, it has a trickle-down effect. It’s important to treat your staff with respect. With dignity. With fairness. Bottom line, make them feel valued. If you can do that successfully with your team members, they will in turn treat the customers in the same manner.

When it comes to service-based businesses, you’re not selling the service of grooming dogs or cats. In professional services, you’re not really selling YOUR expertise. It’s taken for granted that you must know what you’re doing. What you are selling is a personal relationship. A relationship with the owner.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work with all types of professional groomers and stylists. I have seen some of the most talented pet stylists struggle to maintain a healthy clientele. Even if they were passionate about their trade, maintaining a robust clientele and growing a business just wasn’t in the cards for them. At the same time, I have seen mediocre groomers grow an amazing repeat client base that keeps their appointment book overflowing.

What’s the difference?

It stems from the ability to interact positively with their staff and the clients. In the end, the most successful grooming salons are professionally run AND highly personable. They have the ability to win over the customers, building their trust with their precious four-legged babies. Simply put, it’s a personality contest – just like in high school!

Always remember, most clients of complex services cannot gauge knowledge.

They can’t tell…

  • If their tax return was done exceptionally well.
  • If they have had an insightful diagnosis on a complicated illness.
  • If they have a brilliant attorney that’s going to win their case.
  • If they are going to get a fabulous grooming job on their pet.

What a client or a perspective client can tell is if they were involved in a positive relationship.

They can tell…

  • If phone calls are returned.
  • If they are treated politely.
  • If the job was completed when it was promised.
  • If their pets are treated with compassion.

In a service-based business like pet grooming, having a highly personalized team of people handle your clientele is the key to a thriving business. Technical skills will only take you so far. Being able to win over the trust and hearts of your clientele is the real key to a successful grooming business.

Grooming salons and pet stylists who have captivated more than 60% retention rate of their clientele is going to succeed in any market. If your salon or stylist isn’t retaining over 40% of their appointments, you need to look deep within your level of service – dissected and fix it.

Make your clients feel special.

  1. Listen to their needs.
  2. Solve their problems.
  3. Treat them with dignity and respect.
  4. Handle their pets with kindness and compassion.
  5. Under-promise and over-deliver on everything you can do for them.
  6. Always be grateful and thankful they are giving you the opportunity to serve them.

 If your technical skills are not up to par – improve them.

  1. Become a more talented groomer/stylist by increasing your knowledge base.
  2. Continuously practice to improve your current technical skill base; bathing, drying, clipping, scissoring, thinning, and hand-stripping.
  3. Learn to be more efficient with your grooming time.
  4. Always work with safety, quality, and compassion worked into the equation.
  5. Constantly push yourself to a higher level in everything that you do.

If you focus on making people feel valued – while offering a solid service – people will follow you. It will seek out the services you offer. I’d love to say people will flock to you just because you are the best groomer in the area, but they won’t. You have to win their respect – and their trust. And you do that by being personable.

And the real beauty of this? Treating people with respect so that they feel valued doesn’t cost anything. It takes is a grateful attitude, a smile, and the willingness to serve with a heart.

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

Go online and tell us what you think on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.

How to Avoid Stress & Burnout

Professional stress and burnout is the number one thing that stops a successful career in its tracks. So how do you keep it from happening? How do you keep your job fresh? Fun? Rewarding?

Here are a few of my top suggestions.

Difficult Dogs

Dealing with difficult dogs or cats is one of the biggest challenges we face every day. You know the feeling in your gut when you see them on your appointment book. Those feelings of dread, anger, and sometimes fear – those negative emotions that get associated with one pet or client. You begin fretting about them right away, don’t you?

I don’t know many people who enjoy dealing with an uncooperative pet. One of the easiest ways to minimize your stress level is to simply eliminate them from your schedule.

There are plenty of nice, well-behaved dogs in the world to groom. I strongly suggest not doing any more than you can handle confidently and safely. Your skill level should dictate how much you can comfortably take on. Typically, the more experience you have, the more challenging the pet you can safely handle. To stay safe, know your limits – and the limits of the pet entrusted to you.

Here is the rating scale I’ve used to rate a dog’s (or cat’s) personality.

#1: Perfect angel on the grooming table. We love these pets!

#2: Bouncy and wiggly. Does not respect rules and boundaries but is not mean or nasty. They are a bit of a handful to deal with on the grooming table.

#3: Will bite when provoked (tugging on mats, cleaning ears, and trimming nails). With the exception of these trigger points, the pet can tolerate the rest of the grooming process.

#4: Will bite – even the smallest thing sets this personality type off. They cannot be trusted. A well-fitted muzzle can be helpful – and many times, necessary. They require a seasoned and experienced handler/groomer to keep both the pet and the person safe.

#5: Dangerous and unpredictable. Eyes will typically glow red or green. Good candidate for veterinarian-supervised grooming with a sedative.

You should consider charging extra for handling difficult pets. They take more time to groom – and time is money. Let your fee reflect it.

Difficult owners

This one can be a little tricky. If they are just mildly annoying, deal with it professionally but don’t put any more effort into the client than needed to keep them at bay. If they are rude and nasty, most likely they are just that way all the time – that’s how they go through life. I would do a great job for them, just like with any other client, but I would not go out of my way to do anything “special.”

If they are difficult to deal with AND neglect their pooch or do not respect my time, I would charge extra for that.

Just as we rate our dogs, at times we will rate difficult owners.

I have no problem referring #4 or #5 rated pets and/or owners to another groomer who might be more successful in meeting their needs (i.e. – always fire them professionally and politely).

Lateness

Nothing is more frustrating than a client who does not respect our time! We give them a 15-minute window to arrive, either to  arrive to their scheduled appointment or to pick up their pet. If they do not arrive within that window, it counts as a strike against them. For arrivals, we have a three strike rule…

  • Strike one: we let them off with a mild warning.
  • Strike two: we remind them how much we value our time. If they can’t value it as well, they will need to look for another stylist.
  • Strike three: we fire them.

If they do not pick up their pet prior to our posted closing times, we give a few extra minutes. As soon as we know they are running late, we try to get in touch with the owner. If the owner calls and can give us a reasonable estimated pick-up time, my staff has the option of waiting for them if it’s beyond closing time. I will post a hefty late pick-up fee (in 5-minute intervals) but leave it up to the employee to charge it. If they waited, they get to keep the entire late pick up fee as long as they collect it. If we can’t reach them or have not heard from them, we’ll bed the pet down for the night. We leave a pleasant note on the door for the client. We simply state our hours and let them know we look forward to seeing them in the morning. I have heard many salons charge an overnight fee, too.

5 More Quick Suggestions

Each one of these could be a blog topic on its own. However, for right now, I’ll just toss these out there for you to ponder.

  1. Keep learning to make your career interesting while allowing you to expand your career opportunities.
  2. Take time for yourself and your family.
  3. Maintain physical health and wellness through diet and exercise.
  4. Learn to say NO when your schedule becomes overwhelming.
  5. Charge enough for your services. Avoiding living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Don’t forget the little things that made this career attractive to you in the first place – never forget WHY you followed this career path. This is a career with UNLIMITED potential for those willing to stay focused. Work hard – and never stop learning. How cool is that?

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

Go online and tell us what you think on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.

Maintain a Steady Pace

Speed is the key to being a successful pet groomer. Have you watched a highly proficient pet stylist at work? They don’t race around frantically. They don’t whip from one task to the next with lightning speed. They are not frazzled. They are not stressed. They blow through 10, 12, even 14 dogs with ease.

How do they do it?

business-womanHow do they manage a full day and still get home to meet their kids coming off the bus from school? They still manage to get to the gym after work. They enjoy their own dogs when not grooming client’s pets. They have the time AND energy to have a life when they step away from the grooming table.

Do you?

When I observe these successful groomers, I’ve noticed important traits they all share. They work with a steady pace. They have a rhythm to their tasks. Their tempo doesn’t change. They follow the same order as they work on each pet. Their tools are laid out in an orderly fashion, sharp and within arm’s reach. They are not distracted by ringing phones, tales from their fellow team members, nor the personality of the pet they are working on. They are focused and efficient as they work around the pet. There is no wasted effort. No wasted motion.

There are methods to each grooming job. Following a particular order with each type of groom will assistance you with getting through the tasks the quickest. There will be five main types of jobs you do every day – day in – day out at any grooming shop.

The five types of grooming jobs

1. Short haircuts, six weeks or more
2. Short haircuts, six weeks or less
3. Guard comb trims
4. Bladed body with fuller legs and/or furnishings/pattern trims
5. Bath and brush type pets

Generally speaking, the faster you can get a dog to the tub, the faster the trim will go. Dogs with six weeks or less coat growth can normally go straight to the tub. With today’s products, shampoos, conditioners, and high velocity dryers, much of the pre-work can be eliminated. Dematting or pre-trimming is a waste of time with six weeks or less trims.

When it comes to haircuts or finishing a bath and brush dog – pay attention to the order you work. Develop an order – the same order every time for each of the five grooming jobs. If you struggle with remembering the order, write it down and post it at your grooming station. Time yourself on each task. Work on improving your speed with small components within each job. Don’t jump around.

Always follow the order.

Watch top stylists at work. Watch their videos. Sit ringside at grooming competitions and watch the leading stylist compete. With consistent repetition, you’ll increase your speed in no time. You’ll have more time to spend enjoying your free time doing what you want to do. The stress and frustration will be highly minimized. And the best part – you’ll make more money, in less time!

Don’t hurry or rush around frantically to get the job done. Maintain an easy pace and work steadily. Remember the fable of the tortoise and the hare? Highly productive people work a certain rhythm that allows them to flow through enormous amounts of work without becoming stressed or anxious.

Here is a great Learn2GroomDogs.com video lesson that shows how the pros get it done.  Join today!
Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

Do you have any tricks like this one? Tell us about them on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.