By Michelle Robinson
When I first went mobile, I immediately got involved in several social media groups to help me understand the new beast that I was involved in. It helped me learn some of the do’s and don’ts in the business, but ultimately, I was the one who had to make the decision of what I wanted to do. After all, it was MY Business. I sat down and determined what I needed to pay my bills and set my prices according to the number of dogs I wanted to do. I never called around to see what my “competition” was doing, because it really didn’t matter. If they are not working for me and helping me pay my bills, what difference did it make?
Time after time again I would read the fear of a new shop or mobile opening up in town. The immediate question would always be “should I lower my prices to match theirs?” or “Are they going to steal all of my customers?” All too often, I have seen good groomers give deep discounts eroding their bottom line; driving them to work harder for less money. That just doesn’t make sense to me. I understood early on, that every customer was not MY customer, but that is another story.
I am a numbers person. When I started looking at the cold hard facts, it just doesn’t make sense why some groomers spend so much time and effort trying backstab another for customers when there isn’t a shortage! Ride with me for a moment while I share a few things with you.
I live in a town of 70,000 people. I am surrounded by at least 8-9 towns that have a population of at least 30,000 people each. Let’s look at a smaller town just for wags and wiggles! If you have a town with 30,000, the norm is that about 10% of that population owns pets. That would leave 3,000 people. Out of the 3,000 let’s say that about 1% own non-grooming pets. 3,000 minus 300 leaves 2,700 dogs and cats that need to be groomed. Another 10% will groom their pets themselves, 2,700 minus 270 equals 2,430 dogs and cats that need to be groomed. Let’s say that at least 20% of those pets go to big box stores for their grooming needs. That would leave 1,944 dogs and cats that need to be groomed. If 20% of those pets go to local shops and vet’s offices, that leaves 1,555 dogs and cats that need to be groomed. On average, one mobile unit can do about 200 dogs a month, maybe more. Just to throw a monkey wrench in the entire plan, please note that all of your customers may not come from the same town! Isn’t THAT a flea bite?
Remember I told you that I am surrounded by 8-9 other towns that are loaded with a population of 30,000+ people! I also share this space with at least 7 other mobiles, 6 big box stores that offer grooming, vet’s groomers, various shops and home groomers, and my phone still rings! When the hounds are snapping at your heels and you see a new shop or mobile open it is easy to hit the panic button. Yes, you have bills to pay! Yes, you may not be able to afford to lose customers.
If you are good to your customers and give them good service, most aren’t likely to jump ship. Why make a job that is already physically hard on your body more demanding both physically and financially? We are all in the same game – to do what we love and make a decent living at it. Why do you need to fight each other for a piece of the hair when there is enough for everybody?
Everybody has a different skill level. Everybody has that one breed or service that they just knock out of the box. When I attend grooming competitions I understand that the competition is really about that person trying to give it the best that they can. It should never be about trying to drive another groomer out of business because they dared to venture into “your territory.” Nine times out of ten, if you weren’t grooming that customer’s dog before, you may not have ever gotten their business anyway.
I have been mobile for 4 years now. There are people that I service who have neighbors with dogs. They see me every month. Every month I smile and wave as I am leaving my customer’s house. Every month they scoff and scowl at me as they strut little fluffy by, that now looks like a bald rat. This past summer one of the Lemon Girls (as I affectionately call them) approached me as I returned to the truck. She explained to me that she would be having surgery in a month and asked if she could get on my schedule. When she asked my price I thought she was going to have a heart attack! She spurted back, “that was NOT what you quoted me before!” Ma’am that was 3 years ago! “Well MY GROOMER only charges me $35.00 and she has NEVER gone up on her prices!” When I returned and groomed the dog, she scoffed and scowled about what she didn’t like about the groom. The next month she stopped me again to let me know how pleased she was with the service. That it had taken her a while to get used to the different style. I asked her who her groomer was and called her later to let her know what I had done that the customer liked. My service is not in her price range. I understand that, but what I did was change a negative about how groomers treat each other, and the customer appreciated that. Now, when I come by, Lemonade Girls smile and wave back! They have referred a few family members to me in the process!
I love my job, but working smarter and not harder is my goal. I embrace the fact that the only person I compete with is myself. I want to be the best at what I do for me and my customers. When I am done with a pet and I can step back and make that little scrunchy boo-boo face and say… awwwww! I am happy! That’s it! Period! Competition over!