By Khris Berry
When you think of working families, you may instantly think of farming, carpentry or construction trades, small retail stores such as jewelers, or even the death–defying acts like the Flying Wallendas. I, however, instantly think of Pet Services businesses.
Pet Grooming is a trade in which you can find many multi–generational families who share a passion for the industry.
Pet Grooming is a highly skilled trade which combines technical and artistic aspects with animal handling. This combination of talents can prove daunting for anyone to acquire and take many years to master. Yet, over and over, children of the industry learn to groom dogs almost as seamlessly as learning a foreign language by just hanging out in the grooming shop with one of their parents, an aunt, a sibling or family friend.
Learning to groom as a “child of the industry” can be both a blessing and a curse, simultaneously. You were lucky enough to hang out with your relative at the grooming shop. You were always stuck with your relative at the grooming shop. It’s all about perspective.
For those groomers who were raised in and around a grooming shop (or even around the dog show circuit), there are countless stories of hanging out with dogs, playing in kennels or clippering their first hair (often times it was their own head or a prize show poodle with an innocent #40 blade). Their childhoods are pasted with memories of dog hair, naps on the floor, dirty dogs in the bathing tubs and helping someone groom. These “grown–up–child groomers” encompass a large portion of today’s grooming industry. They represent a connection between the past and present and contain a wealth of sometimes forgotten knowledge.
Another type of family within the grooming industry includes the relatives who support, help and work alongside their loved one who came to Pet Grooming as an adult.
Marci dreamed of finding a career in something she was passionate about, and when the opportunity to escape her corporate cubicle came, she leapt at the opportunity. Marci enrolled in a grooming school, put a down payment and hung out her sign at a small boutique in her community and opened Marci’s Paw Place.
Marci’s business grew quickly and she soon began to enlist the aid of her teenage son and husband whenever possible. She couldn’t find reliable hourly help and the family pitched in to help her keep up with the demands of her growing business. Although it had been her sole dream, Marci’s Paw Place became a family business.
Whether you find yourself having grown up inside a grooming shop, or currently work with family members within the Pet Services fields, learning to navigate your workplace with spouses, children, parents, aunts, uncles, siblings or any other family member can be a treacherous adventure. Let’s explore some common core values which are vital in any workplace but critical to achieving success when working closely with family.
RESPECT is the birthplace of trust in any relationship. In a grooming shop environment, it can be earned many ways; hard work, long hours, mad grooming skills, exemplary customer service. Regardless of which version of these you seek, offering respect to your family member as well as earning respect for your efforts is a foundation to build an independent relationship on not defined by family ties.
PROFESSIONAL & POLITE behavior should be expected in any work environment. This may mean that family discussions need to be tabled until appropriate times. This can be a delicate balance as family members will have a more intimate knowledge of one another than regular co–workers. Keeping good boundaries begins with practicing professional and polite behavior in the workplace by sticking to this golden family rule; do unto your family member as you would expect any co–worker to do unto you.
COMPETENT skills will help ensure that fairness and equal treatment can be expected by all in your workplace. By ensuring that every role is filled by competent and capable hands, you can remove suggestions of favoritism or nepotism. If someone is filling a role in your workplace, make certain that they are well–suited for the position and have the skill set to perform their duties competently.
DIRECT & OPEN communication between family members whenever there is conflict will help ward off potential issues. Workplace disagreements are inevitable in the grooming salon; whenever technical and artistic meet animal, there is always room for differing opinions. Learning the best style, time, format and boundaries for clear communications will eliminate hurt feelings and emotional clashes. Family members are more likely to carry emotional baggage into the workplace if proper resolution outside the workplace isn’t achieved.
DEFINED ROLES are essential to achieving success when working closely with family members. By understanding one another’s responsibilities, you can have clear expectations of what each person should accomplish in the workplace. Eliminating crossover of responsibilities will help family members promote accountability, eliminate the tendency to ‘hover’ over one another, remove the possibility of enabling a weaker team member, and create an arena to celebrate one another’s successes and remove tendencies for jealousy.
Gaining these skills is a key to success in any work environment. Using these skills when working closely with family members is a must to maintain healthy relationships at work and at home. Mastering these when working side by side with a family member can offer great satisfaction and a deepening of your collective bond. Sharing your passion with another member of your family has many rewards. From knowing that you have someone you can count on to having someone who is “walking in your shoes”, the joy of sharing a workplace with family is unparalleled when it works well.
Khris Berry has worked with family for most of her many years as a Pet Professional. She currently works together with her husband, son, daughter and daughter–in–law at See Spot Grooming in multiple locations between Louisville, Kentucky and Bradenton, Florida.