For Salon Owners - Work ON your business, not IN it

Updated: Nov 11, 2019

The fastest way to grow your business is for you, the salon owner, to work ON your business, not IN it. Working as an employee will never free up the time you need to monitor, improve and market your business in a way that will promote sudden growth. But this is easier said than done. Why do so many salon owners take the role as the head groomer? Why do you feel the need to be the busiest groomer? When can you find the time to do other things? The second you make the decision to step back from being another employee and focus all of your time and energy on growing your company, you will be catapulted into the next level of success. So what are you waiting for???

The Roadblocks

There are 5 main factors that prevents a pet spa owner from taking this next step:

1. Clients do not want anyone else to work on their pet.

2. You do not have the money to hire additional staff to absorb your grooming responsibilities.

3. You cannot find a quality person to hire to replace you.

4. You do not know how you will pay yourself if you are not grooming.

5. You are unsure of what other work you should do instead of grooming.

1. Clients do not want anyone else to work on their pet.

Been there! Your clients have been coming to you for YEARS because of the service you provide. They like the haircut they receive and the attention you give them. You have built an amazing business with your talents. Kudos to you. The key here is to find only the best of the best, your VIP's and the pet's that are nearing the end of their life to continue to groom.

Everyone else needs to have a conversation that goes something like this:

"Thank you Mrs Smith for being such an amazing client. If it wasn't for customers like you, I would not have the level of success that I have today. I greatly appreciate your patronage over the years. I have to let you know, that in order for my business to continue to grow, I need to step back from grooming. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do, but I really need to start to focus on the next level of my business and that requires a lot more of my time and I just cannot do it while I continue to groom. Let me introduce you to Brittany. She is my top groomer that has been with me for 3 years. She will take over grooming Bailey for me. Don't worry - I'll still be in the shop so I can assist her and answer any haircut questions she may have. Our quality and service won't change. I trust her completely."

If the client protests (and some will) stating that they would rather go elsewhere if you cannot personally groom their pet (been there too), you simply say the follow:

"I understand you are upset, but would you really leave us? I have been caring for Bailey for 6 years. We love her and you! Wouldn't Bailey feel more comfortable coming to a place she knows, surrounded by familiar people rather than go someplace else? And wouldn't you rather have Bailey's groomer already know the haircut rather than starting all over again? I understand that I am not the groomer but wouldn't you prefer someone that I trust and trained?

The remaining pets you choose to still groom should be able to fit in your schedule for 2 days a week. Everyone else should get divided between your staff.

2. You do not have the money to hire additional staff.

This same reason is what is stopping you from exponential growth. It's the old saying: what comes first, the chicken or the egg routine. You need to grow but you need the funds to do it. This takes a little more time and budgeting, but it is manageable.

Start to set aside money each week for a new hire. Start small, if needed. Open a savings account for a new hire and deposit any money you can into this fund weekly.

Ideally, you want to have saved up 3-6 months of pay for a new employee before you hire them. What does this look like? Depends on the position and pay scale you are looking at. Can you get away with hiring a bather for your other team to take a few extra dogs a day? Can you hire a part-time groomer? Or full-time?


$10/hour bather = $5,200 (3 months saved) - $10,400 (6 months saved)

$35,000/year full-time groomer = $8,750 (3 months) - $17,500 (6 months)

**These numbers are guesstimates - so please insert what you consider fair**

You may have a tight budget for a little while as you save heavily, but keep your end goal in sight! The faster you can step back, the more successful (and profitable!) your company will be.

3. You cannot find a quality person to replace you.

Unfortunately, this is a dilemma our industry faces on an enormous scale! Finding good groomers is a struggle. It took me 3 years to find the person that had the drive, experience and initiative to absorb my grooming responsibilities. This is not a quick fix but it IS possible. It will also give you enough time to save up for this person. Hopefully, you will have success faster than I did, but be aware that good groomers and bathers are hard to come by.

On Facebook, there are many group boards for hiring that encourages both groomers and salon owners to post their location and needs for employment. It's not perfect, but it is a start. If you choose to post in this board, pictures of your salon and a detailed job description is best. If you are a groomer that wants this management type position, let the business owners know!

Another option you may have, depending on the size of your team, is to give each one a small raise and have them handle some of your overflow while you are backing out.

Finding the right person to run things when you are gone is hard. Take it slow. You are working towards long-term goals so don't expect to find someone and next week you are off doing other things. A trust has to be built up and that takes time.

4. You do not know how you will pay yourself if you are not grooming.

Solution: additional revenue streams. Whether it is more spa upgrades, adding doggy daycare or pairing up with a trainer, you need to make more money. Your income should reflect the overall business revenue, not your individual grooming revenue.

Prices will need to be raised and expenses need to be cut. This is the key factor in your success. Your salary must evolve from the number of dogs you groom.

I recommend looking at your own personal expenses - home mortgage, car payments, groceries and childcare and determine what is the bare minimum you need to pay your bills each month. This is not glamorous and it should only be a short-term strategy.

Once you have a dollar amount for your own personal expenses, determine what your monthly paycheck should be and cut a check for that amount each month. Any extra money should then be put in that business savings account (mentioned above) to be able to reinvest in your company.

5. You do not know what other work you should be doing instead of grooming.

Marketing, Marketing, Marketing

If you do not promote your business every single day, you will continue to grow at a slow rate and just be another groomer with a huge to do list that never gets tackled. The days you remove yourself from grooming needs to be focused and goal oriented. Do not waste your time with busy work! If the tasks you are doing is not related to income growth then stop doing it. Potential clients need to see and hear about your business 7 times before they make the decision to try your services. 7 times! You need to be everywhere all the time.

Ways to market on your off-grooming days:

Write and email a weekly newsletter to your current and past clients. If you do not have their emails, collect them now. Sign up for a free email provider such as MailChimp. This is a free service for the first 2,000 emails.

Each week, do not just say how great you are...that gets old fast. Instead, focus on tips that can help pet owners. Make the tips relevant to what is going on in your spa currently. Flea season? Discuss flea preventatives, how to spot fleas on your pet and then throw in how your salon treats fleas. Nail trim? Coordinate the importance of trimming nails when clients start extending the time in-between grooms when the weather cools off. Even though they don't want Fluffy to get cold, they still need their nails trimmed.

Have a Call To Action (CTA) at the end of each email. "Call us now to schedule your pet's flea bath."

Revisit vets, pet sitters and dog trainers to encourage mutual referrals. Don't just hand them a bunch of business cards, instead, create a proposal to show them how YOU will market THEIR business. You must give in order to receive. (Mom was right all those years ago!). Set up a shop tour so the other pet care professionals see how you run your business so they feel comfortable selecting you over the competition.

Meet other small business owners in your town to see how you can promote each others business. Create a gift certificate and give it to the best hairdresser in town. Ask them to give this gift certificate in the amount of $50 (or whatever your standard groom price is) to their very best client that has a dog. Tell the hairstylist that they can pretend that they purchased this gift in appreciation to their client. They look like a rock star and you gain a new potential client, that is awesome!

You can do this for other businesses as well - in home cleaning person, restaurant owner, coffee shop owner, etc.

Visit dog parks with a freshly groomed dog, preferably yours or a staff member's! Go in your scrubs and pass out cards and flyers. No need to be pushy - many people will just ask. Play around with the days and times you attend the dog parks to capitalize on the most people there. Go once a month.

Contact your local newspapers and do a press release based off of your best email tips. Local news is always looking for a story, especially if you are in a small, boring town! Make sure they are not trying to sell you an ad - that is different. This is a free public service announcement. Edit the story (from your weekly email) so it does not just pitch your business. Do a short blurb of your companies bio and contact info - nothing more. You want to appear as an industry expert - not just someone trying to promote their business. If possible, include a picture. Do most of the work for the journalist but they will edit it for their audience. Make sure you get the date it will publish and tell your clients to look for the story.

Call the local TV news program once a quarter to see if you can do a pet care piece. To make it more appealing, see if you can pair up with a vet, trainer or pet sitter for more of a story.

Post on social media daily. Please be aware that this can be a major time suck and you can get distracted easily. Stay focused on the goal of promoting your business! Link your MailChimp newsletter to your various social media accounts so it will post automatically when you send it to your clients. Consider doing paid ads on your social media accounts to reach more people. Ask clients to share, share, share!

Think Long Term

Moving from the role of lead groomer to the role of business owner is one that is challenging, time consuming and scary. It goes against everything you have done to grow your business these past few years. You have worked really hard for everything you have - now is the time to re-evaluate your new path.

If significant growth is what you want, then start down that path now. Stop grooming just 1 day a week initially. Then add a 2nd day and so on.

Groomers have a short lifespan due to the physical nature of our job. If you are like me, you started when your body was young and strong. Fast forward a few decades and lifting Golden's and wrestling with Boxers for nails just got a lot more difficult. Maybe you feel great (can you sense my jealousy?) but someday your body will start to break down. Have a game plan. An exit strategy.

If you want to sell your business down the road, it starts by YOU backing out a little. Grooming businesses that rely solely on your role as a groomer, sell for only your salary + salon profits + assets. Let's do the math: $60,000 (salary) + $30,000 (profits) + $15,000 (equipment, etc) = $105,000 sale. Now let's say you are not the head groomer. The business does not rely on what revenue you do in grooming. You can sell your business for its overall value, not just what you do (like the other scenario). You can sell your business up to 3 times more! $105,000 x 3 = $315,000 sale

Working on your business and not in your business is the way to start. Talk to other salon owners who have gone down this path. Contact me! I would be happy to share the good and the bad when I stepped away from full-time grooming. I'm not gonna lie, there are times I miss grooming daily. For example, this week I'm grooming every day because one of my stylists had surgery. I am loving it! However, if I was grooming every day, I would not have the opportunity to pursue my long-term goals for the business.

If you have any comments, please do so below. I want to know what you think. Have you moved from groomer to business owner? Do you miss it? Are you glad you stepped away? How often do you groom? We would love to know what other pet professionals are doing!

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