What sets successful groomers apart from those who are struggling? I asked a gaggle of my favorite outstanding groomers this question and saw that a bit of a theme developed.
Were is a collective list of ten things that those groomers credit to aiding in their success:
1. Build relationships with the pet owners. As much as we love working with pets, it is the people who choose to bring them to us (and hopefully back to us again and again) and who pay us the fees that keep our doors open. One groomer put it very succinctly: “Hospitality is key to a successful grooming business.” Grooming is a service industry and, as such, grows primarily by word of mouth. And you know who spreads the word? Not the pets!
2. Learn to read canine (and feline) behavior. Understanding why animals react the way they do is key to handling—and expert handling is key to true success. It is also essential to understand how an animal’s structure and anatomy affect how they act while being handled. A dog may seem “normal” at first glance, but if it is built in such a way that its anatomy limits its movement, you will need to adjust your handling accordingly, or one of you may be injured.
3. Never forget that grooming is a business. Consider how you wish to run your business and then do so firmly, fairly and consistently. Do not let customers pressure you to work longer hours than you choose or perform services that you disagree with. One groomer reminded me of the importance of stylists taking time to do the math and making sure their business is profitable and not just a glorified hobby.
4. Invest in good tools and maintain them properly. I believe more groomers burn out due to the lack of modern time– and labor–saving equipment than for any other reason. Good tools pay for themselves in a remarkably short period, and gift us the ability to work more efficiently and safely for years to come. If you are working without a lift table, bathing system, clipper vacuum system, high velocity dryer or high–quality hand tools, you are not setting yourself up for success.
5. Good prep work is the basis of all grooming. If the animals you work on are not properly cleaned, dried and brushed, you will never achieve a genuinely high–quality finish. This is part technique and part products. There are so many quality shampoos and conditioners and helpful after–bath sprays, mousses, etc., available to us, and choosing well can make a remarkable difference in the results you achieve.
6. Learn to say “no.” I once heard someone quip, “‘No’ can be a complete sentence.” You can say “no” to dogs that appear to be dangerous, or to customers with unrealistic demands. As I have gotten older, I have had to say “no” to dogs that are too big for my aging body to handle safely. Saying “no” can feel scary, but it is an important life and business skill. To make it easier, learn to couple your “no” with an alternative suggestion; “No, I cannot groom your Newfoundland, but here is the number of a local groomer who specializes in large breeds.”
7. Act and appear as a professional. From your clothing to your behavior, if you want to be respected as a professional, you have to look and play the part. One groomer said, “Always work with the same care and concern as you would if the pet’s owner were watching you.” Never let anger or frustration get the best of you. If you need to take a moment away from a pet to regroup, do so.
8. Take care of your body. Martyrdom is not part of the pet groomer’s job description. Don’t overbook yourself consistently and take that lunch break. It was best said like this: “Take care of yourself to the same standards as you would take care of your beloved pets.” This hit home with me in a big way a few years back. I had a horrible skin inflammation and I refused to go to the doctor. After a few weeks, my sister said, “If your dog had this problem, you would have had it to the vet ages ago.” I had to humbly admit she was right, saw a doctor and was soon on the mend.
9. Make sure you have health and supplemental insurance. One groomer friend has been hospitalized with significant health problems three times in the past year. She said, “I was trying to be frugal and didn’t buy Short Term Disability insurance. Now I am home–bound without income for at least three months. Get insurance!”
10. No matter how long you have been grooming, never stop learning. This year marks my 37th year at the table. I recently took an excellent online hand–stripping class taught by an amazingly talented groomer. I learned some fun tricks and found some new tools I need to order—plus I feel renewed energy and excitement for my work. Continuing your education over the entire span of your career is one way to keep falling in love with your work over and over again.
Grooming is a job that is rich in both challenges and rewards. Take advice from people who have made successful, long–term careers in this industry and see if you, too, can thrive while doing meaningful work that you love. ✂️