Shaping a Speciality
By Daryl Conner
The kind woman who trained me to groom dogs in the early 1980’s happily shared her knowledge about Poodles, Cockers, Chows and every other breed that graced our grooming tables. But she never let me touch a Scottish terrier. Scotties were her breed.
It is somewhat ironic that I now have a great many Scottish terriers on my client list. Some travel for hours to get to me. Scottish terrier people know other Scottie people, and they recommend the groomer of their beloved pet. I never intended to be a Scottie specialist, but life can be funny that way.
I did intend to be a feline specialist. Early on in my career I realized there was very little information out there for people who wanted to groom cats. I set out to learn as much as I could on the subject. I read every cat book I could get my hands on. I interviewed veterinarians and questioned breeders. I went to cat shows. I learned from every cat I had an opportunity to groom. My appointment book stays nicely filled with cats and I have earned the title of Certified Master Cat Groomer.
So, what am I getting at?
To help build your business and create a reputation for your work, consider specializing in something. When you become a specialist, it means you create expertise in a certain area. Here are some ways groomers fulfill needs by offering special services:
• Feline centered grooming. Many groomers offer cat–only grooming or cater to cat clients by grooming only cats on certain days. Since owned cats outnumber owned dogs in the US by a wide margin, tapping into this segment of the grooming industry makes great financial sense.
• Hand stripping. It is safe to say that the average groomer does not offer hand stripping. Many groomers were never taught the art, or they know how but don’t want to devote the needed time for this service. However, there is a demand for hand stripping. Groomers who can properly hand strip coats can build clientele, charging a premium rate for the service and singular skill.
• Breed or group–specific specialist. Let’s say you can’t get enough of Spaniels and Setters. If you learn how to do the best sporting breed grooms in your area, word will get out and your dance card will be filled with sporting breed dogs all day. Maybe you think terriers are terrific? Or Bichons are the bomb? Be the best at your favorite breeds and build your brand working on the dogs you enjoy the most.
• In/out service. One common grooming customer complaint is that people dislike having to leave their pet for hours to be groomed. By offering in and out service and grooming pets one at a time, you can fulfill the desire of a segment of the pet owning public and build your business around satisfying people who want fast turnaround.
• Golden Oldies. If you, like me, are a pushover for a gray muzzle, consider advertising this as a special service. Geriatric dogs often have specific grooming needs, and always require a gentle and patient groomer. Pet owners that love their dogs want them to be comfortable and safe during their last years, and this is an area that I believe an enterprising groomer could create quite a reputation for themselves with.
• Getting creative. Depending on where you live, offering to do a little splash of color or unusual hair cuts can bring in a group of clients who like their pet to stand out from the pack.
• Flexible scheduling. Some groomers opt to work Saturday and Sunday, holidays, early mornings or late evenings, welcoming busy people who work a more traditional Monday–Friday, 9–5 schedule.
• Mobile and House Call grooming. Both of these specialty services are well entrenched in our industry, and their success is an excellent example of how creating a unique business can be very profitable.
These are just a few ideas that innovative groomers have come up with to fill a niche in our industry. Filling a need does not necessarily have to be an all or nothing proposition, either. Let’s say you’d like to try offering in and out service for the customers that you know would prefer that. You could designate one day a week to grooming this way, leaving the rest of the week as you currently schedule. Charging an added fee for the service will make this a winning situation for you, and pet owners who desire fast turn around expect to pay more.
Let’s say you like the idea of being the best groomer of a certain breed in your area. How do you ratchet up your skills? Many top industry groomers offer private lessons. I have taken advantage of this and watched my work improve. Setting up a day of one–on–one training with a master of the breed you desire to improve on is a fabulous investment in your career. Beyond this, read as much as you can about the breed, take classes at grooming trade shows, go to dog shows and talk to breeders. Stretching out of your comfort zone can be a little daunting at first, but it can also make you fall in love with grooming all over again as you learn and grow.
Having one or more areas of specialized service will help your grooming business stand out over those that generalize. It can also make your work more enjoyable for you as you focus your energy on animals you enjoy working with the most. ✂