Understanding your own management style can provide insight into what you value compared to the reality of what your daily actions are. It is hypocritical to say you value your staff and then put financial gain ahead of staff needs. Turning your daily actions at the shop and in your life, into the values you admire and implement is easier said than done. Too often I find managers or groomers acting outside of what they value or believe.

I have a firm belief that pushing groomers to do more dogs is irresponsible and can lead to mistakes. Groomers need to work at a pace with which they are comfortable. I recently found myself questioning the time it takes to groom dogs and entertained the idea of reducing groom times. I tried double booking groomers in the morning and not allowing staff to add times to appointments. This was a mistake and did not reflect my personal beliefs. In fact, one of my apprentice groomers had a high number of accidents after we had pushed her to not add time to her appointments. My actions were in direct conflict with my values. I put the short term financial gain of booking extra dogs ahead of what I believed in and our long term productivity.

To align your values with daily actions can be a difficult task, especially in a grooming environment where split second decisions need to be made on a daily basis.

Begin by analyzing your past reactions to situations in the shop. What kind of manager or groomer are you? Do you you take haircut directions from your customer or would you rather groom the dog the way you think looks best? Would you take a customer with a skunked dog five minutes before closing? Do you give your groomers creative freedom or have a rigid style guide for them to follow? How do you react when a matted goldendoodle puppy comes walking in the door?

There is no right or wrong answer to these questions, but they do help you analyze your style of work and management. There are several supervisor styles and tools online that can help you discover your unique style. A military style of management that values profitability above efficiency would probably not agree with my actions of allowing groomers to determine their times for each groom.

Next, make a list of your values and prioritize them by importance. Of course, many groomers will share the same set of values like, “Always do what is best for the pet,” “Customers are always the top priority,” or “We depend on profitability.” But there are a lot of situations we find ourselves in on a daily basis that allow us to better introduce strong values and break bad habits. For example, stop to think about what you will do when closing the shop today. Do you think your customers and staff deserve a clean salon when you open the next day? In that case, when you are exhausted at closing time, will you stay late to vacuum and mop? Or will you want your staff to leave on time and make it home for dinner with their family?

These exercises in prioritization and value setting are especially valuable when opening a new shop, and can become a competitive advantage. It allows you to begin with a clean slate and establish good habits. If you are opening a salon in a neighborhood where the majority of shops have low service prices, you may want to look at being the higher end salon with premium prices since that market has not been fulfilled in your area.

Here is a sample list of personal values with examples and how you can prioritize them:

Lead by example:

Spotlight is on you so make sure to clean up after every groom.

Be humble:

Your grooming skills are not that good.

Have integrity:

The pet’s well-being far exceeds mine or the customer’s needs.

Stay positive:

Grooming is difficult and I don’t need to make it even more difficult.

Be financially responsible:

Profitability is key for survival.

Listen, listen and listen:

Repeat back to the person important things they tell you.

Do not get complacent:

Make time for customers and offer the best service.

Seek to understand others rather than jump to judgment:

Why is this person late every time?

Show respect:

Don’t take others for granted as their efforts are a privilege.

Invest in people I am surrounded with:

Teach staff to grow their skills.

Work hard:

Make sure you go to sleep physically and mentally exhausted.

Avoid gossiping:

Do not use gossip as a way to bond with staff.

Be considerate of others and value their effort:

Thank staff members before they leave at the end of each day.

Keep my composure in time of turmoil:

Think rationally to rectify a situation; leave feelings aside.

Make good moral decisions even if that means taking a short term loss, as it will come back twofold in the long term:

Never recommend unnecessary services for profit.

It should not be just about the money:

Don’t show off your money and lead a simple life.

Don’t get family involved in business:

Would you want to talk about a bad customer at a family BBQ?

Always organize and clean at end of day:

Find your last breath and finish the day strong.

I will slow down:

I move too fast and skip details. Fine tune my grooms.

On my list, the more powerful values are generalized and can belong to anyone. Who does not want to have integrity and be humble? But towards the end of my list you will start to see some of the specific challenges I struggle with, such as, “Always organize and clean at the end of the day,” or “Slow down.” My weaknesses at work can be overcome if I am aware of them. That is why it is so important to think about these values and where we need to focus our daily energy.

After you have analyzed your behavior and prioritized your values, now comes execution. View this exercise as fine-tuning your actions. Now is the time to “put your money where your mouth is.” Start by making incremental changes and view this as avoiding hypocritical behavior. Your customers, pets, and staff need you to act in a way that is consistent and true to your values. It helps to sit down and plan a week at a time.

It is vital to make every employee feel like a part of the team. So if one staff member gets a cake on their birthday, then all of them should; lest they feel left out. A seven day planning schedule allows you to think about what you need to accomplish that week and set forth that “to do” list. This list should be a clear reflection of your values.

Finally, as a manager and groomer you have the power to shape your environment through your actions. We spend so much time thinking about our staff, our customers and our pet’s behaviors, but very little time analyzing our own. You may find things that you hate about your actions, while others make you feel successful. Either way, there is nothing to lose when trying to improve upon your daily routine and bridging the gap between your actions and values.