By Kathy Hosler
If someone asks you what your most important tool is, what will you answer?
Do you say that it is your favorite ‘go–to’ scissors, your clipper vacuum system, HV dryer or specialty brush? Well, those are all very important, and they certainly make our jobs easier, but your most vital tool is the one you can’t groom without. It is YOU!
You may not think a lot about it, but even if you have all the latest and greatest tools in the world, they are worthless if you are not physically able to use them. Just as you maintain and care for your tools and equipment, you need to take care of yourself. This is one time you need to make yourself a priority.
How many of the following grooming related concerns apply to you?
• Hands—You use them to operate almost every grooming tool you have. The repetitive motion of brushing, combing and scissoring all day can really take a toll on your hands, wrists and shoulders. Problems like carpal tunnel and nerve impingement are common complaints of pet stylists. Be sure to choose ergonomic equipment that will lessen the risk of damage their continual use has on your body. Tools such as shears can be custom fitted for comfort and functionality.
• Feet—Many stylists are on their feet all day long. Wearing good, supportive shoes is a must. Anti–fatigue mats should be at every table and bathtub in your salon. And, shoes with non–slip soles make it much safer in the bathing area or anywhere floors could be slippery. Take breaks during the day. Some groomers find it quite beneficial to change their shoes during the day. If possible, do some of your grooming while seated.
• Back—Many groomers have back problems. Improper lifting of pets is one huge contributing factor (bend the knees, not the back). You should always team lift big or unruly pets. Lots of stylists have also imposed a weight limit on the pets that they groom. Working bent over, standing on your tip–toes or trying to groom in other positions that only a contortionist would enjoy, also contribute to issues with backs.
Adjustable tables make it possible to work on the pet at a height that is comfortable for you. And, tables that can be lowered make it easier to accommodate large pets. Bathtubs with ramps or other easy pet access are beneficial for the dog and groomer alike.
• Eyes & Ears—High Velocity (HV) dryers really cut down on the time it takes to dry a pet, but you need to take precautions when you use them. Eye protection is a necessity when force drying because large amounts of dander and hair are dislodged from the coat during the drying process. And, HV dryers can be very noisy. Earplugs or noise–canceling headsets are a must to protect your hearing from potentially permanent damage.
Protect Yourself & Your Future
Do you have any idea how many stylists are without healthcare coverage? Whether you are self–employed or work for someone else, it’s imperative that you have health insurance. It only takes one serious illness or injury to put an end to a career. Medical expenses are one of the leading reasons that people file for bankruptcy.
You should also consider getting short and long–term disability insurance to protect yourself if you are unable to work. In addition to your physical well–being, there are some other important tools that will help you create a successful career…
• Workplace Security—If you work alone, plan for your own safety. Having security cameras inside as well as outside your building allow you to see everything that is happening. Many security systems allow you to use your smart phone to monitor everything that is going on in your business 24/7.
If you are a mobile groomer, make sure that someone knows your schedule and where you will be throughout the day—especially if you are going to a new client or will be in an unfamiliar location.
• Financial Security—Do you use your hard–earned income wisely? If you spend five dollars each day on a caramel macchiato latte, that’s $1,820.00 a year. That same five dollars per day, when invested wisely, can make your retirement years much more comfortable.
You never know when an emergency will occur—your generator goes out, the water heater quits or your car needs a new transmission. Having an emergency fund to take care of these unplanned events is crucial. If you put twenty dollars a week into the fund, you will have over $1,000.00 at the end of a year. Most financial planners recommend that you have a reserve of three to six month’s income.
• Never stop learning—Time, once used, is a tool you can never get back. One of the best uses of your time is education. The more you know about the pets you work on, the tools you use and the newest techniques in grooming, the better you are able to plan your workday. The key is to learn how to work smarter, not harder. Attend shows and seminars. Watch the competitions and learn from the best. Network with your peers. Try out the newest tools and time–saving equipment at the trade shows.
Now that you have taken care of your body, business and finances, it’s time for you. Reserve one hour a day for yourself. That’s not asking too much; it’s less than five percent of the day. Experience activities outside of work. Whether it is whipping up a delicious new dessert, taking a painting class or signing up for archery lessons, trying new things can be challenging and fun, and can help relieve stress. And, when you become inspired and get your creative juices flowing in other areas of your life, your grooming may benefit as well.
Take a well–deserved break, enjoy the vacation of a lifetime or even reward yourself with an early retirement. All this and more can happen when you take care of the most important grooming tool you have…YOU!