Cultivating Strength: Keeping Your Crew Together

All Things Paw

By Michelle Knowles

Forming a group of strangers into a cohesive staff can be like juggling hedgehogs—with the health and productivity of the business at stake. 

And when managing different personalities, it is important to be keenly aware of the health of the culture of the business so that disagreements and policies don’t create irreconcilable differences, staff turnover, or loss of friendships or revenue.

Here are a few important factors to consider in order to prevent this from happening:

Leadership 

This term is quite misunderstood. All crews need solid leadership. The leader works for the employees. Making sure that proper supplies are made available for the staff to do their job, ensuring the proper climate of friendliness and helping to ease the stress of the day are all important in keeping the salon operating at peak efficiency. 

Leaders lead by example; their appearance, tone and willingness to work alongside their staff is paramount to gaining trust and for solidifying the team. The leader helps to set the policies, prices and protocols that help the workflow of the salon. The leader is also the one to whom everyone looks for answers. Settling disputes with clients or between stylists is part of the job of the leader as well. 

Hiring

Part of being a good leader or manager means getting to know your staff and learning what motivates each individual to work in your establishment. This can begin as soon as the interview is underway. I look for natural talent, skill level, personality, good animal handling, positive attitude and work ethic. 

A talented stylist with a bad attitude is less desirable than one with a positive attitude but with less experience. Talent as opposed to skill is an important distinction. Some people are truly talented and have an eye for proportion and detail, but may not have a lot of experience or education. These are shiny diamonds in the rough and can be taught technique while they explore their love of the art form. 

Personality, attitude and work ethic are the three things besides talent that will decide where and if they fit into your existing staff and the flow of your shop. Positivity and a happy disposition go a long way in helping a new stylist fit in with your crew. 

The last thing I look for is how they handle and interact with the animals themselves. Observe how they touch the dogs and how they ask them to move around the tub and on the table. This will give you a lot of information about their true motivation for working with animals. 

Fairness

Learn the motivations of each stylist so that you can match the workload to the needs of each member of your staff. Leaders cannot play favorites nor can they overwhelm a stylist. Asking a stylist to take on more than they are comfortable with creates a lot of tension and begins to erode the bond of trust. On the other hand, not giving someone enough of a challenge will also sour the relationship. 

The same rules have to apply to all equally. If everyone is treated fairly with no favoritism, then each member can develop a relationship of trust with you and with everyone else on the team.

Stability

When stress levels are high, you must be the rock to which everyone can cling. If the staff knows you are on their side, they can stay calmer knowing that you will represent them correctly. Many things can happen in the course of a grooming day. A nicked ear, a hostile client or, in the worst–case scenario, a fatality can easily overwhelm the entire crew if there isn’t someone who is levelheaded and capable of making important decisions quickly. 

Caring

You should have a genuine concern for the wellbeing of every staff member. These are the people who are responsible for keeping the lifeblood of the business flowing. They are precious gifts from the universe who have come together to care for pets and you are lucky indeed if they come together for you. If you don’t care about them, why should they care about you or your business? 

Opportunity to Advance

Offer bonuses or educational opportunities to keep your staff motivated. The everyday grind of grooming can be mind–numbing and may lead to burnout if there is nothing to fill up the soul. Pay for a seminar, match funds for certification or sponsor your talented stylists who want to compete. Helping them achieve their highest potential can only benefit you in the long run. Every day should be a reminder of what our purpose is.

 It might seem that I have been speaking mainly to managers and owners, but this information can benefit even beginner stylists that are just starting their journey. This small list can be used to sharpen your skill set to be the best employee you can be. And when the time is right, you may find yourself in a management or ownership position. 

I love the beautiful spirit of our industry and have watched us grow for over three decades. It is when we are challenged that we give our best. ✂️