By Kathy Hosler
Yes, the holidays are coming. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas—the wonderful times of the year when we all shop, bake cookies, decorate, go to parties, and relax with our friends and family. Yeh, right… Not if you are a typical groomer. For most groomers, ‘tis the season to work, work, work with very little time for relaxing or anything else, but it doesn’t have to be all work and no play this year. It’s all in how you prepare for it.
How do you look forward to the holidays? With eager anticipation and the confidence that you will be able to handle whatever comes your way? Or does the thought of the long hours, overbooked days, and short-tempered clients make you cringe and want to say “bah humbug”? Do the demands of the stress-filled season overwhelm you and make you feel like the frantic fairy tale character Chicken Little, who aimlessly ran to and fro while shouting, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”?
Let’s make this the year you really enjoy a successful holiday season. The decisions and choices that you make right now will determine the kind of holiday season that you and your salon will experience. Wise, advance planning can have your cash registers filled to overflowing.
First, take inventory of all your supplies—shampoos, styling products, ribbons, etc. and make sure that you have enough to carry you through this peak season. Stock your retail area and fill your shelves with an appealing assortment of holiday toys, gifts, and lots of impulse items.
Always use products and equipment that will help you speed through your grooming. It is very true: time is money, and every minute that you save is precious. If you can save five or ten minutes per dog, you will see a significant increase in the number of dogs your salon can groom, and you can realize a greater profit per pet by decreasing the time needed for each grooming.
Make sure that all of your equipment is in tip-top shape. This is crucial. Take the time to do the maintenance on your clippers, dryers, and bathing and vacuum systems – cleaning filters, changing brushes, removing built-up hair deposits, etc.
Always keep spare parts on hand so that you can quickly take care of a breakdown. If at all possible, have some back-up equipment – a new pair of clippers and lots of blades, a couple pairs of scissors, or an extra dryer. There’s nothing worse than having a salon full of pets and nothing to groom them with.
Pre-book as many of your clients as possible. Let them know that your holiday appointments fill up quickly and you cannot guarantee that they will get in if they don’t book now. Pre-booking appointments makes it possible to schedule your days in a way that works the best for you and not have six full-coated Cocker Spaniels or hand-scissored Standard Poodles on the same day.
As the holidays get closer, many salons let their answering machine pick up all their calls. Their outgoing message states clearly yet pleasantly that all of their holiday appointments have been filled but that they have a waiting list. Hearing that message when she calls your salon informs Mrs. Super-Picky that her little Poopsie will have to be on your waiting list if she is hoping for a holiday grooming appointment (maybe she should have pre-booked a holiday appointment like you suggested at Poopsie’s last grooming).
Allowing your answering machine to take all calls while you are grooming means that you don’t have to stop and talk to people who are price-shopping, the ones who want to tell you their pet’s entire life story, and the ones that simply must get their dog in today – after all, they are a regular customer of yours… They got him groomed at your shop last Christmas!
Having a waiting list also gives you the advantage of being able to select the clients that you want to work into your busy schedule. Often you can fit in two or three easy dogs instead of one difficult, time-consuming client.
The holidays mean long hours on your feet for most groomers. Make sure that you wear comfortable, supportive shoes and have anti-fatigue mats at every grooming station. Ergonomic equipment, like adjustable tables and bathtubs and hand- and wrist-friendly tools, will help increase your productivity without taking a toll on your body.
Make yourself a priority. You are not a machine that can work 24 hours a day. You’ve got to get adequate rest and nutrition if you expect to make it through. Working long, hard hours can really be difficult on your staff, too. Show them that you appreciate them, and reward them adequately for all of their work.
If you can make this a time of pulling together and working as a team, this super busy season will be a happy one for everyone – the pets, their owners, your staff, and especially you. Don’t be a bird-brain. Planning ahead and prioritizing things in their order of importance will keep you from being like Chicken Little…running in circles and getting nowhere fast. Instead, this busy holiday season you will be happy, in control, and you will be singing “jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way” to the bank!