By Daryl Conner
Take a moment to be brutally honest with yourself. Are you being compensated fairly for your work? Pet grooming is a task that requires a great many skills. Groomers must be endlessly patient, able to work with sharp tools and moving animals, have a strong artistic leaning in order to make pets look their best, have talent with time management to make all the magic happen on schedule, and have the business sense to bring home a decent income at the end of the week. It is this last bit that I find many of us struggle with the most. I have a few theories about why that is:
- Pet groomers are predominantly women. Many women do not have a strong business background, and are unsure of how to structure their fee base.
- They do not truly know what their cost of doing business is.
- They base their prices on what their competitors charge.
- Many groomers do not recognize the worth of the job they perform.
- Groomers are afraid if they raise their rates, they will lose customers.
- They believe that their customers will like them more if they charge less.
- They think the only way they can compete in the marketplace is on price.
- They don’t have regular price increase.
Pet grooming is an art and a service, not a commodity. The demand for pet grooming is not elastic. If you raise your prices, the demand does not change proportionately. When you raise your fees, you may lose some customers, but oddly enough, groomers report that when they raise their rates they often gain new clients.
Pet grooming has value because we are offering a service to animals which are perceived as being family members. Over 60 billion dollars was spent on household pets in the United States in 2015, with the average expenditure per dog coming in at around $1,600. One source reported that there are over 160 million owned animals in our country, and yet there are only around 120,000 pet groomers to service all those pets. These facts point out one thing very clearly; our skills are in demand and we should not be afraid to charge what we are worth.
If you don’t really know your cost of doing business, try this: write up a list of all of your fixed expenses for last month. Fixed expenses are those expenses that vary little each month. Your rent or mortgage, insurance, utilities, and other costs that happen every month, no matter what, are fixed expenses. Next, write a list of your variable expenses for that month, things like shampoo, sharpening services, office supplies, and other expenses that vary with use. Add your fixed expenses, plus your variable expenses for one month, then subtract that number from your total receipts. For example, if your fixed expenses were $1,000, and your variable expenses were $200, your total expenses were $1,200. If your business grossed $3,000, your net profit was $1,800.
Now that you have a number that reflects your net income, you can either divide this number by the hours you worked or by the number of pets you groomed to find either how much you earned per hour or how much you earned per pet. If you worked 160 hours (40 per week) and your net was $1,800, you earned $11.25 an hour. You DESERVE a raise. If you groomed 6 pets a day in a 5 day work week that is 30 pets per week. Multiply this by 4 weeks in a month and you groomed 120 pets. Divided out, that is $15 a pet. Yes, you DO need a raise. If you increase your groom price in this example by just $3.00 a dog, (far less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks for your customer) you will increase your revenue per month by $360 (120 pets x $3=$360). This would effectively give you an hourly rate of $13.50. That’s an extra $2.25 per hour!
Most groomers agree that it is best not to blindside customers with a rate hike. One common method of raising prices is to tell people as they are paying for their current groom, “I look forward to grooming Kix next time. I’d like you to know we are having a small rate increase and his next visit will cost $__.” Then make a note in your records that you gave your customer this information.
I have been known to try to add a little humor to the information. “Good news!” I’ll tell my customer. “I am getting a raise!” Most of them will say something like, “You deserve it.” Then I say, “The price for your dog’s next grooming will be $__.” Because I raise my rates a small amount each year, the difference is not much and most customers do not complain.
If your rates are very low and you find that you must have a large increase in order to make your business profitable, be prepared to lose some of your customers. Since grooming can be a rather personal business, it can feel bad for us to see those customers go. However, some will return after trying another groomer, and new customers are always going to be coming in.
Many people hesitate to raise their rates because they lack confidence in the service they provide. There are ways you can build your confidence as well as your credentials. Take a pet CPR and first aid class, and hang your certificate of completion where your customers can see it. Consider taking continuing education classes that give a certificate to show you attended, and hang those with pride as well. Check out becoming a Certified Animal Handler, this is a fairly quick and easy thing to do. It is more complex to become a certified groomer, but there are several national organizations that offer excellent programs. Some offer different levels of certifications so you can start out smaller and build as you go. The process is not easy, but it is very worthwhile to expand your knowledge and skills. And that certificate hung on the wall? It will impress you as well as your customers! Continuing your education will increase your knowledge and skills, as well as build your feeling of worth. That will help you to feel worthy of charging a living wage.
Here is something else you should consider doing. Look around your grooming facility with fresh eyes. Is it clean, organized, and attractive looking? It can be easy to let housekeeping slide a bit when you are working long hours and tired at the end of the day. Walk up to and into your business, pretending you are a new customer. Look at the entrance, the area around the entrance, even the door itself. Make sure your entry looks welcoming. Go inside. What do you see, feel, and smell? It’s amazing what a few hours of sprucing up, and perhaps a little paint can do to freshen up your atmosphere. Are your windows clean and free of puppy nose prints? One business expert said to me, “If your business is the crummiest place there is, make sure it is the cleanest, best smelling, most appealing crummy place!” He was being funny, but the point is a good one. Make the best of what you have; and in a business that lends itself to flying fur and the smell of wet dogs, it is something groomers need to be especially mindful of.
Knowing what your actual cost of doing business is and feeling confident in your skills and the service you provide will help you to formulate a plan to earn a reasonable living for the work you love. Pet grooming is more than a job, for many of us it is truly a passion. But it is a passion fueled by hard work that we deserve to be compensated for. ✂