By Daryl Conner
As a professional pet stylist, what does the word “success” mean to you? I asked this question and got some really interesting responses, which I wanted to share.
“I found a niche that suits my grooming skills, personality, and passion for helping pets and their guardians,” says Renee Pierre, owner of Joyful Grooming House Call Pet Service (East Greenwich, RI.) “I am a house call groomer specializing in pets who are usually labeled anxious, nervous, difficult, fearful or unable to be groomed. I had no idea I would love this job as much as I do. I am thrilled to be greeting each work day with the challenge of accomplishing something that may have been previously unavailable to a pet. I look past the labels and work one-on-one to achieve a satisfactory outcome for everyone involved. That is the joy in Joyful Grooming!”
The Queen of Color, Dawn Omboy joined the discussion. “Success is in those clients, who over the years, have become family. It’s being able to still love my job after over 30 years. It blows me away that because of the love of dogs I have been able to support my family as well as travel, share and learn.”
Anyone who has groomed for more than a day knows that our jobs are difficult. Yet, the very challenges that grooming presents are what attracts some people to the industry and keeps them in it for years.
“A successful groomer complains about being so busy when they are working, but then feels lost when they are not working,” says Marilyn Hayes, (Tails U Win, Resaca, GA.) “It’s not just about money. I need to groom, I’m addicted to it. I want to be the best groomer in town. I’m a success because I’m happiest while working or at a grooming show leaning all that I can. The payoff is an explosion of joy and high praise for me when a customer sees their dog after a grooming.” D’Gaye Findlay, (Dog Grooming by D’Gaye, Corvallis, Oregon) agrees. “I believe that my measure of success is that I still love my work and would rather be a groomer than anything else. It hasn’t brought me fame or fortune, but it’s served me well.”
There was some excellent advice shared by groomers while we had this conversation. “I think to be successful you need to learn your limits,” said Barb Hoover (owner Professional Pet Grooming and The Groomers Lounge, Leavenworth, KS.) “Some people don’t do well with some types of dog or owner personalities. Some people can work 10-12 hour days and love it, while others need to keep it a 6-8. Some love big dogs, while others just physically can’t do them. Every groomer is different. Learning your limits and accepting them will bring you success.”
Stylist Donna Cleverdon built a prosperous business which she was able to sell when she retired. She listed some things that she believes are key for groomers to know:
• A successful groomer can maintain a stable client base. This is done by being really good to customers. Treat people honestly and charge a fair price.
• It is important to like and respect your clients. They will return the favor and recommend you to others.
• People will pay lots of money and love you if you take good care of their pets. It also helps to smile.
• You can’t run a business by under-cutting yourself and not charging enough. That leads to burn out.
• Never stop learning. Nobody is so good at grooming that they cannot get any better. Learn, study, go to shows, and talk to other groomers. This will help you build on the experiences of others.
• Sometimes success is predicated on change. Be flexible and able to change as the need arises.
The career of grooming is attractive to different people for different reasons. “I get kissed a lot!” says Mary Arnold, (Bit O’Blarney Pet Services) “And I feel validated every day. I love being able to do what I love and get paid well for it. Grooming satisfies my need to be artistic, and it pays the bills too. No boring office job for me!”
“Success is relative,” says Ileana Nogueras, (Wilmington, DE.) “I remember when I measured my success by how many figures my tax return read at the end of the years. And boy, I earned each of those figures. I grew my mobile business at a fast pace, never sacrificing the quality of the work I put out. But you know what I did sacrifice? My personal time. That realization lead me to reassess what success really meant to me. This is what I came up with:
• Personal satisfaction. Knowing that my family comes first.
• Professional satisfaction. Knowing that I have developed a wonderful clientele, who are loyal and with whom I am partners when it comes to taking care of their pets.
• Professional growth. Furthering my education with the intention of gaining better knowledge and understanding on how to better service my clients, both two and four legged.
• A deep sense of giving back. It is not how much you give, but how much you care.
“I believe you can achieve all these when you develop a sense of balance and what is important. To me that is success.”
Few people become pet groomers with the idea of making loads of money. Grooming is a service, and traditionally those working in service industries don’t “get rich quick.” Yet there is something deeply satisfying about working with animals.
“For me it’s the feeling of peace in the quiet moments that everything in life is just as it should be for that current time. It’s waking up the majority of days looking forward to what greets me, and it’s going to bed a healthy type of tired; feeling I’ve achieved what needed to be done and did the work it took to get there,” says Sami Stanley (Grateful Grooming, Milford, Delaware.)
Her advice to her peers is this, “Never stop striving for your dreams. Never stop working towards them. Never give up. Educate yourself all the time, and not just by traditional means. Let life give you lessons. They are everywhere. And always be appreciative, always keep humble.”
Finding contentment in your work, earning a decent living and being able to do it all in the company of animals is a powerful combination. Beyond this, successful groomers should plan to save money for the future, and be certain that they are protecting their assets by having proper insurance coverage. From health insurance to liability and even disability insurance. Having these systems in place will help if illness or an accident derails your careful plans.
Enjoying the satisfaction of turning pets from scruffy to fluffy; from stinky to sweet; pet grooming is a business that is not suited to everyone. But for those of us who call this career a way of life, we are hard at it every day because for us, grooming matters!. “