Groomer to Groomer

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Being an Effective
Leader of the Pack

Part Two: Employee Management

Paw Inspiring

By Missi Salzberg

Welcome to Part Two of “Leader of the Pack.” Last month we discussed the many considerations when hiring a new team member. Looking for someone with the actual skills to do the job was one piece of the puzzle, while also considering their attitude, goals, willingness to work as a team member, and being able to identify with the ideals and standards of the owner/manager. At the risk of repeating myself, I cannot overemphasize the huge impact one person can have on a small team, so hiring a new member of your staff must be done carefully.

Once you have found that person and identified that they will be an asset to your business, and they recognize that your business will be a positive move in their development, how do you keep them? What are the things that matter most to an employee? What keeps people inspired and looking forward within their careers? You may be amazed by the answer.

Over 65 years ago in 1946, the Labor Relations Institute of NY conducted a survey that was reproduced again and again over the next several decades with strikingly similar results. The survey shows a workforce that does not identify finances as their number one inspiration. Review the following responses, listed by level of importance (from greatest to least), first by what employees say they want followed by what managers think employees want. You may be surprised!


(in order from greatest to least importance)

  1. Full appreciation for work done
  2. Feeling “part” of things
  3. Sympathetic help on personal issues
  4. Job security
  5. Good wages
  6. Interesting work
  7. Promotion/growth opportunities
  8. Personal loyalty to workers
  9. Good working conditions
  10. Tactful discipline


(in order from greatest to least importance)

  1. Good wages
  2. Job security
  3. Promotion/growth opportunities
  4. Good working conditions
  5. Interesting work
  6. Personal loyalty to workers
  7. Tactful discipline
  8. Full appreciation for work done
  9. Sympathetic help on personal issues
  10. Feeling “part” of things
Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I may not forget you. 

— William Arthur

What struck me the first time I read this study is that the top three most important issues for employees were not financial but more related to feeling appreciated, being part of something, and having an understanding boss. It really was quite contrary to what most employers thought would be of the utmost importance.

Let’s not kid ourselves; everyone wants to make money and continue to grow in their career. It is interesting, though, to note that the interpersonal issues seem to be the base and framework to keeping employees long-term. In essence, if people are understood, respected, and feeling a part of something important, then they will ultimately stay and excel. This has absolutely been the truth at my business, with employees that have been with me over a decade.

How do we accomplish this goal and be an effective leader when it comes to retaining great, committed staff? Here’s my baker’s dozen on retaining great employees:

Listen: Being open to feedback from your staff is key. People need to have a voice. Whether or not you take every bit of advice or suggestion is not nearly as important as truly listening and thanking people for their ideas.

Communicate: Be clear on what your expectations are in the workplace, both in terms of the quality of grooming as well as the day-to-day issues of professional behavior, cleanliness, and other tasks related to the running of the shop. People can only meet and exceed expectations if they know what they are.

Be Positive: For owners and managers, it is crucial to set the tone for any business. Negativity is contagious! You have to create the atmosphere that you want to work in.

Put People Ahead of Policies: Small business management requires flexibility. Have your policies in place, but don’t lose sight of the human aspect of being a leader. This is also extremely important in customer relations. You can’t be so hardcore on policies that you lose track of keeping people coming through the door and having the staff there to provide the service!

Learn When to Admit You’re Wrong: Humble pie can be a powerful tool in connecting with your employees. I make mistakes, and that is what makes me human. We all make blunders, we overbook, we say we can demat a dog when we really can’t. Sometimes it is worth much more to take responsibility for a mistake and change your mind than to dig your heels in and need to feel right. Being open and admitting a mistake also sets an example to your staff that they can be forthright with you if they make a mistake.

Don’t Show Favoritism: Even if you actually do have a favorite employee, you cannot let that be obvious. Equality in your attention and praise is important in a small business. Find the good in every one of your employees and let them know that they are appreciated. It can be a one-on-one compliment or a public gesture of praise that can inspire your other employees! You have to keep the playing field level, however, and make sure you show the love to everyone.

Don’t Micromanage: If you have found an employee that you believe in and you know they do great work, let them do it! There is no need to stand over someone and pick apart their efforts. That is not to say you shouldn’t check their work along the way. That is part of keeping quality control, but review their work and offer constructive criticism.

Give Your Staff Feedback from the Customers: Be certain to share all positive feedback with your employees! If someone calls the store to compliment one of the groomers, I put them right on the phone. This is the best inspiration! When it comes to criticism, employees need to hear that, too, but try to frame it in such a way that they learn from it and not just be hurt by it.

Charge Enough for Your Services to Offer Benefits: Keeping great employees means treating them right and offering benefits. Whether it is health insurance, dental, vacation time, or bonuses, people who commit to your business 40-plus hours a week deserve security. It is possible! Maybe it is time to review your pricing and think outside the box. Many employees would rather have a health plan and take home a little less each week. You’ll never know until you explore the possibilities.

Have Fun at Work: Whether it’s pizza day, a holiday bash, or fun pranks, laughter is also contagious! Birthdays are a great opportunity to do silly, fun things. Decorate the groomer’s table with balloons! We had a drag queen do Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday” to my mom for her birthday last year!

Encourage and Support Professional Growth: Send your staff to professional trade shows. Pay for continuing education if they attend seminars. We offer to pay entry fees if anyone wants to compete. Bring in educators or offer educational DVDS in a staff library.

Deal with Issues Directly and Promptly: Things are typically never as bad as they seem, but they gain strength and energy the longer they fester. If issues do arise, tackle them honestly and clear the air. Whether it is addressing the groups or a one-on-one discussion, the sooner difficulties are dealt with, the better.

AND ALWAYS REMEMBER: “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
— Sam Walton

I personally do not like change. I love consistency. To have consistency, you have to treat people right. Every business has its own brand, and in a professional grooming business, your staff is a key component to that brand. When you find a gem, keep them! As in every aspect of life, what you put out comes back to you, and in business it is no different.

A boss creates fear, a leader confidence. A boss fixes blame, a leader corrects mistakes. A boss knows all, a leader asks questions. A boss makes work drudgery, a leader makes it interesting. A boss is interested in himself or herself, a leader is interested in the group. — Russell Ewing ✂