By Daryl Conner
It’s a brand spanking new year and I don’t know about you, but I find that to be rather exhilarating! I like to think of things I can do to make my life a little more fun, easier or more exciting during this time of reflection and planning. I also like to apply these principles to my grooming. Here is a list of 12 ideas that you might like to incorporate into your new year, or maybe you will think of things that suit you better. But at any rate, do embrace 2015 with some excitement.
1. Learn something new:
Grooming is a career that has a fairly high rate of “burn out.” There are lots of great things about grooming, but we all have days where the idea of flipping burgers at a fast food restaurant for minimum wage seems like it would be a whole lot more fun. One way to combat burn out is by learning. Go to a trade show. Not only can you see the latest tools designed to make our work easier and discover how to use them, you can go to classes taught by skilled professionals. See how to groom a rare breed just for fun, learn how to be better at running a business, discover how to groom cats or hand strip terrier type coats. Find classes that appeal to you and open your mind. It’s good for your brain to pick up new skills, and it is good for your soul too. I have never been to a trade show that I didn’t come back from energized and newly in love with my work.
If you simply can’t make it to one of the shows held across the country, consider signing up for a month on Learn2Groomdogs.com. You can watch industry greats doing what they do best in the comfort of your own home, wearing your pajamas if you like! If even that is not in your budget, go spend some time reading all the wealth of knowledge at www.groomerslounge.com or petgroomer.com. Years of collective wisdom are filed there, free for the reading. In addition, buy or borrow some of the fabulous new grooming books available to brush up (pun intended) on your breed skills.
2. Network with like-minded people:
If you don’t have friends who are groomers, you should. No one else will ever “get you” the way another groomer will. Thanks to the internet, you can have cyber grooming friends with the click of a few buttons. But better still, try to have face to face meetings with groomers in your area. Nothing is gained from being adversarial with others in our industry. Invite your peers to meet at a pizza place to chat and share ideas, or invite them to your place for a pot luck and a grooming DVD viewing. I can pretty much promise the DVD will not get watched, as tales of anal sac explosions and funny grooming tales fill the air. There is nothing like being able to pick up the phone and talk to another groomer when something goes wrong, or better yet, when you have a really great day and want to share it with someone who knows what you are talking about.
3. Mentor a beginner:
Share your knowledge. It does no one any good if you take all the skills you have learned to the grave with you. If someone you know wants to become a groomer, consider being their mentor. Steer them in the right direction to learn all the things a really talented groomer knows. This can mean allowing someone to job shadow you for a day to see what our work is all about to a full blown apprenticeship, and many things in between. It’s up to you. Just think back to when you were starting out. Wouldn’t it have been great if someone kindly helped you on your way? Or if someone did, wouldn’t it be fabulous to pay it forward?
4. Invest in a new tool:
Is there a tool that you don’t own that would help you work more safely, more swiftly and more comfortably? I bet there is. Set a goal and budget what you can towards the purchase of that tool. There is nothing more fun that having a new bathing system, vacuum system or the table of your dreams delivered to your door.
5. Learn to say “No”:
As a groomer, you are probably a kind and nurturing person. This makes it hard to say “no” sometimes. Don’t despair, this is a learnable skill. Look at your calendar and set yourself up some days off. A real vacation, even! Then mark those days off in bold ink so you can’t sneak even “one little pet” in there. You need and deserve time off to rest. Saying “no” comes in handy at other times, as well. It is ok to refuse to groom the dog that you are pretty sure is going to hurt you, and you can also refuse to demat a pet that is pelted. And saying no does not have to be mean. Often if you offer an alternative, people will be perfectly happy. Here are two examples, “No, I’m sorry I can’t fit your Old English Sheepdog in now as we will be closing in 45 minutes, but I’d be happy to do him on Saturday.” Or, “No, I’m sorry, we can’t leave a fluffy coat this time, but if you rebook for 8 weeks after today’s smoothie I’d be thrilled to give you the fluffy look you desire!”
6. Institute a price increase:
This is always an awkward thing to do, but to keep up with the cost of living and to earn what you deserve, it must happen. Many groomers find that early spring is a good time to raise their rates, just before the busy season kicks in. One suggestion on how to do it is to tell customers during their appointment before the increase date. Try this, “Good news! I am getting a raise!” Most people will say something like, “Good for you. You deserve it!” Then you can add, “Spikes groom will cost $__ next time you come in.” Mark it on their appointment card and make a note in your file that they have been told. If the humorous approach is not your style, you can simply type up a polite, informative little note to hand them during the prior groom that announces the increase.
7. Learn to fire clients that you dread seeing:
If there is a customer that causes your gut to clench with dread when you see their name in your appointment book, send them on their way. Life is too short to have to deal with people that ruin your day. Maybe the human annoys you, maybe the dog is impossible, whatever the reason, the quality of your life will improve if you don’t have to deal with them anymore. You can be gracious. Recommend a groomer that you think would be better suited to their needs, but don’t let them back on your schedule.
8. Do something completely different:
Take a class at your local continuing education center about absolutely anything that doesn’t have to do with work. Trying something new is a great way to shake things up. It can be a one hour lesson on how to make goat milk soap or a 6 week creative writing class. New ideas and new energy in one aspect of your life can shake things up in all aspects.
9. Try some new products:
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with the same shampoos, conditioners and coat sprays. For a small investment you can buy a few new things to try. Some companies will send you a free or inexpensive sampler package of things to try. I’ve been grooming 30 years and only recently discovered how well the “quick drying” sprays work. They actually break the bond that water has on the pets’ hair, and they seriously reduce drying time. Drying table toppers are another neat tool. They go on your table like a fitted sheet goes on a mattress. Put a bathmat under it and you will be amazed at how much faster your drying is. Bonus point; the fabric deadens the sound from the velocity dryer when it contacts your table top, making the drying less stressful for you and the pet.
10. Hire help:
Book keeping is not my thing. It makes me feel sick with dread to think about it. So, I am happily committed to groom an extra dog or two in order to pay someone else to put my paper work in order. I’d rather wrestle a once-a-year Chow than spend time with Quick Books, so that is what I do. If there is a job you dread, consider grooming a bit more to pay for someone else to do it.
11. Take care of your SELF:
You’ve only got one body. Make this the year you pack a healthy lunch every day, drink more water, plan some gentle exercise and give up a habit that you know isn’t healthy for you.
12. Take charge of joy:
If you love nothing more than soaking in a hot bath by candle light, make time for that. If a facial or pedicure is blissful for you, work that into your life once in a while. Maybe nothing soothes your soul like a walk along the beach or by a rushing river. Go do that. Sometimes we have to take charge of bringing joy into our own lives.
Make this the year that you make a little more money, take some time off, learn a fun new skill and indulge yourself in things that make you smile. Because you, dear groomer, matter!