By Khris Berry
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that our industry will need to recruit, train and employee 64,000 new pet groomers by 2026 just to keep pace with the American appetite for pet ownership.
Recently, we discussed a looming crisis in the grooming industry. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that our industry will need to recruit, train and employee 64,000 new pet groomers by 2026 just to keep pace with the American appetite for pet ownership. That of course, is assuming that no working pet stylist now steps away from their grooming table in the next five years.
If you are like many working pet groomers, you are already feeling the steady climb in new client calls, have new pets entering client households, and are seeing your typical wait time extend from days to weeks, to perhaps even months. Capitalists and economic analysts would predict that it has never been a better time to be a pet groomer—but those who are suiting up and showing up everyday may disagree.
As an industry, we are facing what often times feels like an onslaught of not only new and increased clientele, but new dog owners as well. We find ourselves explaining, educating, repeating, repenting and exhausting ourselves mentally and physically to find common ground with our clients.
But these are the crisis we already have identified. We know these challenges exist in the pet industry and are gearing up collectively to face them. There is another silent battle being waged that has been overlooked. Where are these new and existing pet stylists going to work? Is your current employer prepared for growth, to add employees, to navigate business ownership growth and expansion to accommodate them? Is the existing workforce able to foster new business owners and new establishments as they learn the pitfalls and joys of owning a pet grooming salon? Is the industry prepared to absorb the collective mistakes as new and existing pet grooming business owners catch up to enact safe handling, educated sanitation and professional practices? Is your employer prepared to operate a profitable, sustainable pet grooming salon while offering fair employee wages and benefits? And we haven’t even touched on the retirement issue for pet groomers who will inevitably face a shortened work lifespan due to workplace and innate job hazards.
Ok, now we have a crisis on our hands. What are we going to do as individuals and as an industry to facilitate the answers to these issues? How will we accommodate this growth and create sustainable, professional, compassionate workplaces?
Let’s delve into some solutions and action items that you can implement now and in the years to come.
Employers realize that employees and customers are the center of every business. Each business is reliant on people who desire to pay for their services and people who are paid to perform those services. Establishing safe, sustainable, professional and legal workplaces will help the entire industry. Stay up to date on legal pay structures. Follow local, state and federal requirements. Structure your business so that you are financially stable and can not only meet your current obligations, but save for future financial pitfalls as well.
While not a popular subject, apply practical policies that allow your employees to feel supported, safe and directed, and create boundaries that support your business. Time off policies, flexible time off and paid time off are critical to happy employees and sustainability in a growing business. Health and wellness incentives and plans will ensure that your employees are able to stay in their positions for more years.
As an employer, your initial response will be that these things are too costly or unattainable. It is your responsibility to figure it out. There is no other answer. If your current business model doesn’t allow for these things, then find a new one. Business coaching, financial advisers or a business mentor can help you navigate your way to a better future for you and your employees. If you are contemplating starting your own pet services business, build it correctly from the beginning.
Groomers are a breed of their own. Ask one. Ask anyone who has employed a groomer. I often say that it takes a special person to accumulate the immense knowledge library, hand/eye coordination, skill set and behavior background required to accomplish the job—and then choose to work in an industry which is often undervalued, under-organized and overly dangerous. Who would actually want to do that job every day? Groomers. So, what can you, as an employee, offer to help with the looming questions facing your industry? The responsibility does not lie completely with the employer. Each needs the other.
As a pet services employee, you can begin by ensuring that you are working for an employer who provides legal pay structure and abides by all codes and regulations which govern the community you work within. You work in a dangerous profession. According to a recent article by The Wall Street Journal, it’s one of the most dangerous professions in the United States. You should choose to work in an environment where your health and safety are valued. You deserve access to healthcare and the ability to enjoy reasonable time away from your career to recharge yourself on a personal level.
You are a service provider and a caretaker—your work/life balance will be critical to providing compassionate care for the animals and clients you serve. To provide those common career amenities, your employer will need to create a financially viable structure which takes care of each employee and the benefits you enjoy, as well as create a financially sustainable future for your place of employment.
The days of fifty percent (or even more) of a business gross proceeds leaving immediately to employees have come and gone. It is nearly impossible to sustain a business with those margins—outside the industry, economic analysts cannot believe it still exists. Inside the industry, it is crippling fair wages, the introduction of benefits and the long term health of grooming salons.
Remember our initial crisis? We need to attract more people into the pet service industry while keeping those who are already here viably employed. The answer isn’t just “raise prices” or “hire more groomers”. The answers lie in having the flexible mindset to structure salon practices and prices so that they are financially viable.
Providing benefits such as healthcare, paid time off and continuing education is a great start, but learning to pay employees, manage other financial obligations and how to set your pricing structures to provide all of these things while providing a valued, quality product for the pet owning public is the key to success for all involved.
Just because the pet service industry functioned “status quo” for the past decade or so, does not mean that it will continue to work in a new period. We are not driving on the wheels our ancestors designed and we are not going to manage the growth and change in the industry without bringing our salons toward a more mainstream business track. Benefits, fair wages and sustainable profits are a benchmark of a successful business.
Every working pet groomer can manifest the career culture necessary to produce a sustainable workplace. Both employers and employees must face these challenges and work together toward a strong and bright new period in professional pet styling. ✂️