Groomers are some of the fiercest and most resilient workforce in the world today. But this ability to maneuver through one of the nation’s most hazardous professions (and make it look easy, most days) often comes at a cost.
Groomers begin to believe that they are invincible, and don’t always have plans in place for when the worst events that life can bring upon us occur.
When the wheel of destiny chooses a groomer for its recipient—illness, injury, bad luck, financial hardship, etc.—this workforce will often rally and support one another. GoFundMe pages abound for groomers in trouble. This industry is comprised of generous souls who come to the aid of one another over and over again. Who reading this hasn’t offered financial assistance (even when we barely could afford it) to another pet professional?
But what if there are other plans you can put into place to protect yourself?
The pet grooming industry is moving forward at light speed these days, and as we persevere toward becoming a unified, professional workforce, this comes with responsibility and adjustment to our old thought and behavior patterns, as well as learning to navigate new territory as professionals. Since life can send even the most prepared professional a curve ball when we least expect it, none of these are more important than entering the realm of “Backup Plans.”
Injury and Illness are worst-case scenario, but perhaps the most common a groomer may face. Being injured on the job or falling ill can range from a short time period to a lengthy absence from the workplace. The collateral damage of this scenario comes in several flavors—all equally devastating.
In my time in the industry, I have seen groomers lose their housing and their entire life fall apart from missing a few days of work. I have also seen groomers who were suddenly faced with debilitating illness or injury, requiring months of recovery. Each scenario is equally devastating and comes at a price to the people involved.
When planning for this scenario, the first wave of defense is to secure and maintain good health insurance coverage. You work in one of the most dangerous professions in the United States—you simply must have access to good health care when and if you need it. Many groomers immediately assume this is a dream; however, it is both necessary and responsible for you to find a way to afford health insurance. Make it a priority. Options abound, from individual care policies to employer-supplemented plans. Plainly put, this is a luxury that you cannot afford to go without.
Employers should be examining their business models to prioritize this for employees, whether it’s adjusting pricing, profit margins, staffing or their entire business infrastructure. Every pet professional needs to step up on this one and prioritize your health and wellbeing. When injury or illness strikes, this is the first wave of protection. Disability insurance is a viable option, and while an expensive luxury, those who need to invoke its benefits are grateful to have it.
The next backup plan sounds as if it comes from your grandparents. (They were most likely very wise, and we should all be listening to them.) Maintaining a healthy savings account will support every worst-case scenario you will experience. From time off work to mandated closures such as many pet professionals recently experienced, maintaining a safety net of savings to fall back upon ensures that you are prepared for most scenarios.
I witnessed countless stories of groomers and grooming salons during the COVID-19 shutdowns who willfully defied their local and state government mandates and continued operations due to financial strains. Money is no excuse to operate illegally. Your lack of planning does not constitute a free pass to break the law. Sorry if this one strikes a nerve, but it needs to be repeated.
Whether healthy savings for you is one week of pay set aside or six months or more, you have a responsibility as a professional to protect yourself and your business. We are all in this industry together, and our movement toward professionalism is happening as a collective.
More and more, due to the lucrative wages associated with the profession, I am meeting grooming professionals who are the primary breadwinners in their household. Groomers are supporting children, partners, car payments, keeping their businesses open and facing stress at a higher rate than ever before. These adjustments are difficult to make when you are already financially strained. This can be facilitated with learning to follow a budget (remember to include health insurance) and learning to practice restraint.
I write this from a very personal point of view. Together, with an amazing family infrastructure, I am blessed to operate multiple highly successful grooming salons. When one of my family members was recently and suddenly stricken with a life-changing illness, everyone around me struggled to maneuver to “make it work”. Having health insurance has been critically important to ensure that she receives the care she needs to be able to recover. When she will walk back into a grooming salon is unclear at this point. However, because the plans above are in place, everyone can immediately focus on healing and the future. I can only imagine how this could have gone differently if there had not been health benefits, access to immediate and top-notch medical care, and most of all, if she had not been able to maintain the financial responsibilities on her plate.
While this is a cautionary tale, it is repeated daily in the lives of groomers. I am advocating that we all begin with self-care and move toward having the plans and programs in place that we need to protect ourselves from hardship. Having a backup plan will ensure your professional journey continues toward being the invincible, incredible groomer that you are. ✂️