By Khris Berry
There is an old adage that goes like this: Change is inevitable. Although this holds true in almost everything in our lives, it perhaps rings the most true to groomers and pet professionals.
Grooming (and pet services) are simply not the same industry they were in the past. Whether you are speaking one year ago or one decade ago, the influx of the pet into more and more homes is creating a whirlwind of change and activity for the pet professional.
One can surf the internet and find countless statistics on not only the growth of the pet population, but on the growth of the pet industry as well. We are surfing a rising tide and many groomers are feeling overwhelmed at every turn with new clients, new products, new processes, new practices and new problems. In order to manage our way through growth and change to calmer seas, it may help to begin with the one thing in the world you can control—YOU!
While growth, change and general chaos may abound in the industry, and even your workplace on some days, ensuring that you are presenting the best version of you to your clients—canine and human—will help you succeed. So let’s take a moment and look at both the hardest and easiest element to control in your workspace—again, you.
General Appearance: Dress for Success
Groomers have many options, and while there is no standard “groomer dress code”, learning to present yourself as a professional to clients begins with looking like a professional. What groomer hasn’t rolled around in a Golden Retriever bath and blow–out only to be called to greet a customer immediately after? Learning to manage your appearance while completing hairy, wet and often dirty duties is a balancing act.
Think easy maintenance; select clothing that is both durable yet comfortable and will allow you to remain hair/dirt free to greet your clients. Thanks to innovation, there are many high–performance fabrics on the market today—both in grooming salon apparel as well as the medical scrub field—which offer the ability to dry quickly yet remain hair–free and allow you to enjoy the freedom to lift, bend and squat comfortably.
Choose hair and makeup styles which will endure the rigors of a groomer’s day—hopefully you will leave your job looking as fresh as you did at the beginning of the day! Remember, you only get one opportunity to make a first impression on each client. What level of professionalism would you like for them to relate to you?
Professionalism: Walk the Walk
Now that you are properly dressed and styled for your career, let’s discuss how you interact with clients and co–workers. Webster’s Dictionary defines professionalism as the conduct, aims or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person. As groomers, how do we define the qualities of a professional groomer?
It may be best to allow our responsibilities define those qualities; we are responsible for the wellbeing of the pets in our care, for interacting with their owners in a partnership manner and to offer valuable services which increase the quality of life for them. To achieve all of these things, as groomers we must be moral, ethical and responsible. A professional pet groomer should conduct themselves with those three qualities in mind in their interactions with clients and pet. If you use those qualities as your guidelines, you are well on your way to professional behavior.
Sanitation: The First Line of Defense
Sanitation is the first defense to provide a healthy environment to complete a groomer’s work. When working with animals in any manner, learning how to identify, prevent, and protect against communicable diseases and pests is critical. When giving your salon a sanitation makeover, use your senses—all of them! Your nose can lead you to the source of potential problems, but be careful that you aren’t masking issues with cleaning supplies or scent delivery sources (like candles, diffusers or air fresheners).
Many times, I’ve heard people say, “Of course it smells like dogs, we are a dog grooming shop!” That statement is false. A clean environment should smell like “clean”. A visit to any air freshener aisle will tell you that “clean” is a marketable scent.
Skills: Go Get Them!
As the clients we serve grow, so do their needs. Their dogs are becoming more diverse; the options for styling and products are becoming more diverse. The need for humane yet effective handling skills is at an all–time high as clients seek more visibility and transparency in our services. Whatever your skill set is, find new ways to supplement your education. Even if you are already good at handling pets, find new avenues to learn more techniques. Giving yourself a skill checkup is a great way to “clean up” another area for the professional groomer.
Safety: The Most Important Skill Set of All
One of the most unique things about a career in grooming is that there are so many different elements which you can focus on. Some groomers brag about their clipper work while others are magicians with scissors. Some are fantastic at handling difficult dogs while others are great at client communications and human relationships. Whatever your strong suit, never forget that safety is the one skill set that every groomer in every shop in the world can build a foundation on.
Building a safe skill set begins with awareness and compassion for the pets we are servicing. I meet thousands of groomers each year and I have never met one who tells me they do not love the dogs they work with—it is a unifying truth that binds all groomers. But loving the dogs is not equal to safety awareness, risk assessment and relying on the professional qualities of being moral, ethical and responsible. These are the backbone of creating a safe experience for each pet and the owner who loves them. Safe education and awareness are becoming readily available—both online and in–person formats. Give yourself this most important skill set checkup at your earliest opportunity.
So, when you think of cleaning up, while you may not immediately think of applying a “spiff up” session to yourself, look at the different segments above to see if you can make improvements in any aspect of your own career. Looking closely at yourself is not always an easy task; self–reflection is not light work and assessing your career skill set is not for the feint of heart. But your clients will enjoy a superior experience, your business will thrive and you will gain the self–confidence of a true professional. Go forth and be great! ✂️