Single Point of Failure: Always Have a Backup!

Grooming Matters

By Daryl Conner

If the power switch on your computer breaks, the rest of your computer is fine, but you cannot use it. If one wheel falls off your vehicle, you are not going anywhere. If you have one pair of clippers and they break, you can’t groom many of the dogs on your schedule.

These are all examples of what is known in the business world as “single points of failure,” or SPOF. One small thing that breaks down can stop your business, and your ability to earn income, dead in its tracks. Failure of a crucial piece of equipment can be catastrophic if you don’t have a spare tool stashed for those “just in case” moments.

I suggest, that as we begin a new year, we all take time to look at how we work and identify any SPOFs that pertain to our individual businesses. Grab a piece of paper and a pen and begin to jot down your vulnerabilities. Here is a good way to keep track:

  • Start a flow chart, or even a basic list. From the time a customer contacts you to set up an appointment, think of what infrastructure is in place to support that contact. This is where your income starts, so it makes sense to start your list here, too. This section might include your telephone, your scheduling system and your record keeping system.
  • From there, document each step of what happens once a pet enters your place of business. Do they go into a crate, cage or kennel? If so, note that piece of equipment. Then move on to the next step. Does the dog go right to the bathtub? What if your tub drain got badly clogged, your water wouldn’t work or the tub itself developed a leak?
  • Continue listing each piece of equipment used on each pet; clippers, clipper blades, scissors, brushes and combs. List every tool, no matter how small.
  • Next, list which products you use. Most of us have some redundancy here. If you miscalculated how many gallons of your favorite shampoo you have stored, and you run out, chances are you have other options available. Still, list what you must have to get through a typical day; shampoo, conditioner, ear cleaner, dematting spray, even cologne.
  • Keep listing until the dog is out the door. Did the customer pay with a credit card? List the system you used to process that sale. Did you send them out with an appointment card? If so, list those too.

Probability of Failure

At this point, your list or chart may look a little daunting—but fear not! Next you need to look at each item’s probability of failure. The chance of your bathtub spontaneously developing a leak or a cage or kennel spontaneously collapsing is very slim. Each tool you use will have a life expectancy. Decide how likely it is for each item to fail. The tools that have a high probability of failure should move to the top of your list, and those with a low probability can be moved way down.

If you’ve been grooming more than a week or two, you know the maddening chance of your clipper giving up the ghost on a moment’s notice. Sometimes merely replacing the blade drive assembly will have us back up and running, but other times it needs a visit with a good clipper repair person. Since we use clippers on almost every pet, and since they are not a horrifically expensive item, I humbly suggest that we each have at least one backup set stashed somewhere handy.

In the military they have a saying, “Two is one, one is none.” This means that if you have one of an item and it breaks, you have nothing. But if you have a spare, you are back to having one. However, if you have one clipper that breaks, and one in reserve, and something happens to your backup tool, you are back to zero.

For tools you simply must have, it’s best to have more than one backup. I can hear you now, “But that’s expensive! I can’t afford to have three clippers.” If you have no clipper, and cannot work until your favorite grooming supply place can send you one, how much work have you lost? How expensive is it to be without income for several days? Worse yet, how expensive is it if one or more customers switch to another groomer because you had to cancel their appointment? Here is a suggestion, ask your clipper repair guy if he has any rebuilt clippers he’d be willing to sell at a reduced cost. They make dandy spares.

On more expensive tools, it can be trickier to keep backups on hand. I have an expensive high velocity dryer but I bought a less expensive one to keep on–hand in case of emergencies, and I am glad I did. It does not work as well as my favorite dryer, but it keeps me fluffing dogs if my go–to machine is in for repair.

I recently purchased a new bathing system because my old one was acting sluggish. I’m going to pack the old one up and send it to be refurbished, and then I will keep it as an emergency backup if my newer one breaks. And my beloved clipper vacuum? I have a smaller version stashed away for emergencies, because I do not choose to groom without one.

Consider having backup, replacement tools as a form of insurance. At some point, the tools you rely on most will fail. If they are crucial to the way you do your job, that single point of failure can be expensive if you don’t have an alternate waiting. Even if the extra tool is not your favorite brand or style, if it gets the job done, it keeps you from losing income while your preferred tool is being repaired or replaced.

Start the year off right by identifying what SPOFs you have in your grooming tools and plan a way to keep your business running smoothly when the inevitable happens. ✂

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