The Paper Trail

Grooming Business Basics

By Khris Berry

The Pet Grooming industry is experiencing growth and change at an unparalleled rate. As busy working Pet Groomers, we struggle to keep up with advancements in every aspect of our jobs.

Likely you spend time studying changes and trends in pet grooming styles—which Bichon head shape is considered most relevant; how to apply bevels to cocker feet; is my Miniature Schnauzer pattern correct? Such are the questions a busy groomer may ask themselves every day. 

As a business professional, are you applying the same care to keeping up with the needs of your business as you are the hands–on skills you deliver to your clients’ pets? Do you spend an equal amount of time focusing on the business side of your business?

Many pet professionals begin their journey into business ownership based upon a desire to provide services for pets and their people. With that journey comes a few responsibilities that new business owners may not be prepared for.

Having good basic business documents ready at every turn of your business’s road will help make sure your journey is less bumpy. These documents are the equivalent of a road map for your business. They should be clear, concise, understandable and easy to follow.

When your business reaches a turn in the road, you will hopefully have the correct document to refer to for direction. Creating a paper trail for your business will insure that you spend less time “lost” on your journey and more time moving toward your professional goals.  Let’s review basic documents that every pet business owner should have in place.

I’ve broken each set of documents you should create for your business “map” into basic questions which may arise in your regular course of business:

Mission Statements have fallen slightly out of style but still have a purpose in your business. A good mission statement should define your business and how it will interact with the world around it. I regularly review my own company’s mission statement to make sure I’m still on the road I decided to travel. Who hasn’t made a wrong turn a time or two? Crafting a clear mission statement for your business will allow you to return to it, time and time again to make sure you are steering correctly.

Employee Documents are key to keeping your paper trail paved. Like all roads, this path needs regular maintenance. Updating addresses, emergency contact numbers and even maintaining correct cell and e-mail addresses is vital to ensuring that you can contact your employees at appropriate times. We ask our employees to complete new contact information, including updated tax status forms, each year during their annual review period.

Employee Contracts, Handbooks and Job Descriptions are no longer considered to be by–products of working for a larger corporation. Every employer/employee relationship should be defined with these documents. Not proficient in legalese? Never fear, securing the services of a local attorney to look over a simple employment agreement is an investment that will repay you many times over if you need to enforce it.

The content of each of these documents can be as diverse as the people and shops who are creating them; groomers and grooming positions vary wildly from city to city, state to state and region to region. Begin with educating yourself about the parameters of legal employment in your area and build a document which suits your daily business needs. Do you need an employee who can regularly lift dogs over 50 pounds? That’s perfectly fine as long as you define it in your job description. Prefer to limit personal cell phone use in your establishment? Great idea; just write it into your employee handbook. Each of these documents should define roles, pay, responsibilities and serve as a directory for how to navigate your salon. It’s up to you to enforce them once you define them, however.

Animal Handling Guidelines, performance standards, performance reviews and process for advancement are also all documents that you may consider implementing in your salon. Whether you are a sole proprietor or work with a group of groomers—each of these documents provide accountability and the ability to dialog about improvement and setting a high standard for pet care services.

Client Agreements, Liability Forms and Client Record Keeping are all key components when providing a service to the public. I am a fan of offering a client agreement which basically states “We will provide X service for the client. In return, the client will respect our time and skills by doing X.” This seems like a simple statement, but many pet professionals struggle with client relations. By identifying at the onset of the client/groomer relationship how you prefer to handle complaints, no shows, rescheduled appointments or any number of issues, you are essentially holding your client to the same standard as yourself.

2018 is the Year of the Dog, however I believe it should have a secondary label as the Year of the Doodle. Matted release forms are one example of the type of liability forms which will allow dialog about a dog’s grooming and make the client aware of potential risks to their pet’s health and safety. You can create unique forms but I am a fan of the many options offered by Barkleigh including Senior Pets, Cat Grooming, Pet Safety and Matted Pets, just to name a few. These are a small investment into your own peace of mind when dealing with out–of–the–ordinary situations.

Client record keeping is a necessary element of keeping track of your people, their pets and hopefully your income! Whether you opt to choose a paper format or use a computerized format, having access to your client records will save you time and provide more efficient service when you are interfacing with clients by phone or in person. Creating a professional appearance begins with good record keeping.

What else?   Employee Record keeping (time clock and payroll, tax and legal documents, master emergency contact lists, disaster plan, etc.) each represent an aspect of business ownership that you probably did not think of when you decided to open your pet service business. As you gain control of your business and become adept at maneuvering the obstacles which occur in the course of operations, you will find that having reliable, dependable documentation allows you to navigate with more ease and proficiency.

Where to start?  Many pet professionals don’t have these things and don’t know where to begin to get them. Finding other professionals who have already begun the journey of the Paper Trail is a good first step. Business consultants can speed the process along and often times, while more costly in the beginning, provide a good investment in easing problems later. As I travel, speaking on business topics to pet service providers, I am amazed at the insight and creativity that I find in fellow pet business owners.

Find a mentor; hire a good attorney; attend business classes at industry trade shows, but most of all, begin by laying your own Paper Trail and start paving your way to success. ✂

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