Mobile is a wonderful service and a great way to work independently doing what you love. However, it does require that you work smart in order to avoid some of the pitfalls that can be associated with it.
It is nice to be independent of other employees and work alone in a mobile grooming setup; you are on your own schedule and no one is looking over your shoulder or making decisions without your input. With that being said, it does come with some potential pitfalls…
Some of the biggest conflicts in working mobile are expenses and time management. They are parameters you have to observe very closely. With the rising gas prices these days, it becomes even more significant. If it costs you $50 to do a $75 groom, you are not making any money. Unlike the brick-and-mortar practices, the gas prices and down/travel time affect your costs directly.
Rising Cost of Travel
There are several ways to combat the cost of gas prices increasing. First, take the most efficient route possible. I actually priced out implementing mobile for my
veterinary hospital because I do believe it is a wonderful service. The only way it made sense for my hospital was to upcharge for a luxury service (me going to them) and trying to set up in central locations.
The more you travel, the more time, gas, and wear and tear you have on your vehicle. It is best to market to a smaller area and be wise about the clients you choose to service. If you have to travel five miles for one dog, that is different than if you groom five dogs in the same household. When we first go into business, we want to service everyone, but it doesn’t make sense if the fee doesn’t reflect the costs involved in traveling to the client.
One strategy to compensate for driving longer distances is to charge a mileage fee. Gas has increased immensely, and your prices need to reflect that. If you are not taking this into consideration, you might be going backwards financially. The good news is, with this approach, if the cost of gas goes down, you can then back off on the mileage fee. Many groomers prefer not to do it that way, but there needs to be some type of compensation to make up for the difference. Clients appreciate this a lot more than just raising prices because of the transparency involved.
Consider The “Down Time”
Are you booked out weeks to months in advance? Often mobile groomers are because it is a luxury and convenient service that clients love, so you need to be charging accordingly. Mobile prices need to be considerably higher than brick-and-mortar, not only because of the convenience, but your “down time” is considerably more than that of a normal salon.
How many days did you lose for maintenance or repairs on the vehicle? How much money did you spend on repairs? How many hours do you lose a day, a week or a year just in travel time? Travel time adds up quickly, so being efficient in this area is extremely important. But down time is the second most costly. Something to consider is how to minimize this area also. Experienced mobile groomers tell me simple is better. It is always nice to have all the “bells and whistles” that some of the fancy vans and trailers have, but that means more things can go wrong, which also means more down time, harder to get parts and more expense.
There are a lot of advantages in building your own van or trailer. One is you can get it customized to your preference. The second is if you do the work yourself, then you know how to fix things. Keeping spare parts and being able to fix common problems can change your down time and the wait time on parts. Recently the turnaround time has been quite extensive for new parts. If you do need to wait on parts for a couple of weeks, this could affect you both physically and financially. You would have to make up for two weeks of work in an accelerated period of time, or you might end up losing clients as they get tired of waiting.
Small Work Space
Another challenge is the small space to work in. I know groomers that have fell ill from carbon monoxide poisoning or strong products like tick and flea dips because their vans or trailers were not ventilated adequately. This is definitely something to keep in mind so that you don’t put the pets or yourself at risk. Wintertime can be especially challenging when you can’t open windows or vents because of the cold. Preventing pets from escaping the small space can also pose as a challenge.
Water storage is always a challenge in these units—especially on days with freezing temperatures. This limits what can be used to bathe the dog, but also for clean up between dogs. Without the luxury of unlimited water, you have to be careful to make sure the pets are adequately rinsed to prevent skin issues associated with products left in the coat. It is also important to make sure that the area is cleaned well to prevent spread of any infectious material between dogs.
Mobile is a wonderful service and a great way to work independently doing what you love. However, it does require that you work smart in order to avoid some of the pitfalls that can be associated with it. Clients love the convenience and accessibility, but remember—it is not necessary to hurt your profits by charging inadequately. ✂️