“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.
The 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.