My first official blog

I’ve just spent 5 hours trying to update the content here on my website.  My eyes are seeing double and my brain feels fried.  HEY!  I can’t think of a better time to try and write my first blog.

If you have never been your own boss, I highly recommend it.  It teaches you patience, humility and courage.

Let’s start out with humility.  The bible says that “Pride goeth before destruction,” Proverb 16:18 and the Ancient Greeks liked to go on and on about hubris preceding a hero’s fall from grace.  But I wouldn’t have ever said or thought that I was prideful.  How do you separate pride from skill and confidence?  I’m not sure about that.  What I do know is that I felt on top of the world at my previous employer.  I trained a new groomer for them.  Their grooming department became profitable after I was hired.  I wasn’t taking new clients and I was booked out 6-8 weeks.  I felt like I was not only valuable, but irreplaceable.  I had high standards and I wouldn’t compromise them.

My world changed when the owners came to the groomers and presented a great “opportunity” for us to make more money.  I don’t like change, especially when the change isn’t my idea.  I tried to hear them out with an open mind, but their great opportunity was to switch all the groomers from hourly wages to commission.  It’s a wonder that they didn’t hear the doors slamming in my mind.  You see, I’ve worked commission before.  It means that you earn, normally, 50% of what the shop charges to groom a pet.  From the surface it seems like a great deal, until the first client doesn’t show up for their appointment.  Maybe the next clients has some kind of coupon or discount.  The last client of the day has a dog that is twice as big as they said and twice as hairy.  It is going to take you twice as long to groom the dog, but you quoted a price and the owner isn’t going to be happy if you charge twice that amount.  When I worked commission I took short-cuts, because the more dogs you groomed, the more money you made.  I worked longer hours and I was in a constant state of stress that I wouldn’t make enough to pay my bills.  I quit that place a long time ago.

The next employer had always paid hourly and hadn’t considered anything else.  Their main business wasn’t grooming and they didn’t pay their Veterinary Technician on commission, so why should they pay the groomers that way.  It was a God-send!  I stopped stressing and started focusing on the pet.  I groomed as many dogs as I could groom.  I learned that the short-cuts (like kennel drying) made a difference in the quality of the groom.  I also learned that I didn’t groom well under stress.  I made mistakes and with grooming those mistakes sometimes mean an injured dog, not just a bad haircut.

So return back to the office with me.  I am sitting there with the Office Manager, the owner Veterinarian and her Veterinarian husband.  They are talking about a great opportunity to make money and all I hear is that they don’t value my work and input.  I think they are saying they don’t care about quality, they just want quantity.  All those skills I worked so long to prefect weren’t needed any more.  They just needed speed.  I’m not sure that that is what they really wanted.  That night I went home and figured out that the reality equaled a $5000 pay cut.  Pride reared her ugly head and I promptly wrote a letter of resignation.

You see I don’t think through things and what the consequences are going to be.  I never have and at the age of 42 I’m not sure I ever will be able to learn it.  All I could feel at that moment was the injury to my pride.  Then on top of that, they didn’t even try to talk me out of it.  The Office Manager was caught up too much in her own issues with me.  The owners were out of town.  When they came back I had already packed up an entire room of grooming tools.  It filled my Subaru AND a trailer.  I drove the 4 blocks to my house and filled my entire front room with my grooming stuff.  I didn’t know what my next step was going to be but I lost two weeks crying about what I had lost.

It is 6 months later.  I am NOT booked out 6-8 weeks.  I’m not even booked out a week.  I have people calling me on the phone and I have to somehow convince them that bringing their pet to me is worth the extra $15.  I’m not very good at selling my service.  They recoil when I tell them the price and hang up and try the next name in the book.  I am on the other side wondering how you tell someone that I will love their pet and treat it gently.  How do you say that not all groomers do?  How do you say, I am a really really good groomer even if I don’t much care if there are hairs on the inside of the dogs leg that I can NEVER get even.  Maybe when I figure that out I will write a blog about it.

I had to decide if I would stick by my grooming ethics.  I thought that kennel drying leaves the dog looking awful and is dangerous to the dog.  BUT you can groom more dogs if you bathe them then throw them in a kennel and start bathing the next dog.  Previously I wouldn’t shave a double-coated dog because of the risk of post-grooming alopecia (that just means that sometimes you shave the dog and the hair doesn’t grow back normally).  I really stuck my nose in the air and said you couldn’t “upgrade” my services, because I already used the best shampoo, I already dremeled the nails and every dog already got a Blueberry Facial.  I was put to the test and it turns out that I still won’t kennel dry a dog.  But I will shave a double-coated dog, after I sternly lecture you on the dangers.  I turned my snobbery into an advertising tag, “Upgrade your groomer, not your pet’s shampoo”.  So I learned that you can sacrifice some things and some things never should be sacrificed.

I wouldn’t say that my pride led to my destruction and I still don’t know the difference between confidence and hubris.  But starting out from the beginning has taught me to appreciate those clients that followed me.  It has made me even more grateful for those clients that find me through Google and are willing to give me a shot.  I sucked up my pride and answer the phone when it rings (hey, wasn’t that what the receptionist were for).  I am also grateful for those mini-miracles that help me get through the week.

I can’t think of anything clever to say to sum this up.  I am surprised that I had so much to say about my pride.  I am also surprised that I still have so much emotion about leaving my previous employer.  I don’t get to work with a lot of people that I loved, so maybe that is a type of fall.  Or maybe it is just the next step in my life.

Next time I will muse about my courage (or lack of it).

1 Comment

  1. The reason I follow you Kirstien is that my Lovie shakes and pees every time I would take her to another groomer. Dogs are much smarter than we humans. She knew where she was safe. She loves you! I had a similar feeling with your last employer when I was told that I could not use you as a groomer if I did not have a “yearly physical” which would cost me at least $200! You were worth the “yearly physical”, and certainly are worth every penny you charge now. If anyone has tried to groom a cocker spaniel, you would know that it takes hours to achieve a mundane result. It is a terribly hard thing to do to manage all that hair, and when I pick Lovie up she always looks so cute, even when I tell you to trim her down and give her poodle feet. We will follow you to the ends of the earth!

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