Through my eyes….

As I have mentioned a number of times, my history in the pet industry goes back to when I was 13 years old, learning to bath and groom dogs in a small grooming shop in the St. Louis area.  If you would have asked me nearly 27 years ago if I would be writing about nearly 30 decades of experiences in this great business, I would have thought you were crazy.  After all, I actually had aspirations of being a detective or wall street “suit”.  Obviously neither have come to fruition, but that’s okay, especially considering the recent conditions in both of those previously attractive fields.

So, I am staring a new chapter in my blog writing.  The next number of posts will be a collection of short stories about some of the fun times and even some really low times I have experienced first hand in this business.  Of course, no names being mentioned, I can tell you that without some really cool bosses, co-workers, and eventually subordinate staff supporting me, many of these experiences couldn’t have happened the way they did.  Every situation, every up and down, I view like bricks.  Bricks build solid walls and eventually solid structures.  Thanks to these “bricks” of history, I have the ability to excel in this business and share my life in the pet industry with you….through my eyes.

Till Next Time…..

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Never Settle!

Happy New Year!

Well, with the turn of calendar, many of us contemplate the notion of setting resolutions, some even think the whole process through and launch ourselves into this new endeavor believing we will be successful.  While some of us are, most are not.  Most fail due to the lack of planning, or setting smaller, more milestone based goals for ourselves.  Maybe you have heard the adage, “you cannot eat an elephant all in one bite”.  Simply put, this means you have to define the steps to success needed to reach your overall goal.  It’s like trying to get the top of a staircase without using the steps (no cheating and using the elevator).  Poor execution usually leads to disappointment and surrender.

I am a firm believer in a try, try again mentality.  Keep all opportunities on the table.  Seek out new opportunities.  Just because you are on this constant search for new things, doesn’t mean you are going to pursue them.  Sometimes discovering and learning of new opportunities helps us more than we think.  While sometimes we may think we will find something so attractive during our search process, we often times simply confirm the appeal of our current situation.  This just means we have made good decisions up to this point.  But just waiting for things to fall into your lap is not my recommendation.  In my opinion, to be satisfied or “settled” is to give up control.  Nobody is more in control of what eventually happens to us than we are.  If we cannot control what is dealt to us, at least we can control how we deal with it.  Without exploration for opportunities when you don’t necessarily need them, you will left short when you do.

Pick your passion, pursue it with all your heart, and never settle.  Vince Lombardi once said, “”Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we will catch excellence”.  

I believe this.

Till next time…….

Don’t forget about Fido at Christmas

According to the American Pet Products Association 2011-1012 Survey, 78% of dog owners will buy gifts for their pets.  53% of these gifts are bought for Christmas!

Knowing that pets are now more like family members than ever before, if you are retailer, remember to carry products that enhance the relationship and bonding time we spend with our fuzzy family members.  If you are a pet owner, look for these type of gifts so that you can continue to involve your pet in your everyday schedule.

Till next time…..

Cup of Joe?

I read this interesting article about coffee shops this morning (while at the coffee shop) and it confirmed everything I have always thought about the interesting work environment and the amount of work I get done while sipping a cup of coffee.  Ok, I drink a whole cup, but who’s counting.

I still have the same routine I have had for nearly 20 years.  I start most of my days at the coffee shop, spending some “Me Time” reading a business book, newspaper, organizing my calendar, and once a week meeting a buddy to talk about our businesses, family, and of course, football.

I have always been amazed by how focused I can be in such a noisy atmosphere.  As you will read in the study, however, there is a difference in productivity and noise levels and the threshold from one to the next is very thin.  That is, don’t plan on getting too much cognitive progress done surrounded by barking dogs, but people talking, ordering coffee, and the occasional Bible study table next to mine on Thursdays seem to be the perfect “blend” of productive ambiance.

I am saying all of this to suggest you take some “Me Time” and make a routine of starting your day under YOUR rules, planning your day or your week by stuffing your head with productive and meaningful intent.  The coffee will open your eyes.  The coffee shop locale will open your mind.  All you have to do is fill it with something useful.

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/06/study-of-the-day-why-crowded-coffee-shops-fire-up-your-creativity/258742/

Till next time…..

Doggie Dragon Breath

Studies show only 10% of pet owners seek out solutions for their pet’s oral hygiene needs!  What?!  That means 90% of the pets out there have either the beginning stages of a life shortening disease (periodontal disease) or have advanced signs including loss of teeth, pain, infection, or worse.

As pet professionals, we have a duty to inform our clients about the importance of proper oral hygiene for their pets.  While solutions including visits to the pet’s Veterinarian exist (which can be very expensive and sometimes risky) there are daily, very simple things that can be done to help the pet’s breath and oral health between cleanings.  These options include brushing and NO brushing alternatives and some really cool toys that promote better oral hygiene.  Of course I am a bit biased (OK, allot biased) to the NO BRUSHING NECESSARY line of Tropiclean Fresh Breath products!  It really doesn’t get any easier than this!

For all of you groomers out there, if you don’t already, start offering a solution for bad breath as a grooming service and increase your earnings today!  It is amazing what adding this simple $5 service can do for your bottom line and your pet client’s health.

Till next time…..

“Satisfaction” featured in May 2012 Groomer to Groomer Magazine

Groomer to Groomer

May 2012

“Satisfaction”

By Joe Zuccarello

Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones said it the best, “I can’t get no satisfaction.  I can’t get no satisfaction. Cause I try and I try and I try and I try.”

How do we make sure this is something our clients are not saying about us?  How do we make sure our customers are satisfied with our service?  How do we make sure they are so thrilled with our service, they recommend us to others?

In one of my recent articles, we were introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Picky.  They could easily say this about any of us at any given time if we are not careful.  Worse yet, they could say this as they walk out our door and our business and start giving their money to another shop down the street.  I have learned over the years this customer only has to try another shop one time, and be more satisfied with the outcome at the other shop, for us to lose this customer forever.  Again, what is a client worth to your business?  Not just the $40-$50 from one lost appointment, but an average of $4,000 to $5,000 over the life of the dog!  That’s an expensive loss!

The secret of customer satisfaction lies in our COMMUNICATION with the client.  Yep, the number one reason for relationship challenges at all levels, poor or lack of communication.  This reminds me of another famous television commercial that uses the following question to drive home their presumed competitive advantage over their rivals, “Can you hear me now?”

Listening versus Hearing.  Are they two different things?  VERY.  The difference between hearing someone and listening to them is a level of engagement you have in the conversation.  Hearing is simply catching a sound with your ears.  Listening is interpreting what the client is saying, using it to create a substantial response, and committing the conversation to memory.  Some business coaches call this “Active Listening”.  The term implies a use of energy to focusing on what is being said and how it is being said to guide us in our response and our actions.  If this focus is used correctly, we can better satisfy the needs of our clients by delivering the outcome they are looking for.

I have observed and participated in tens of thousands of grooming client check in procedures and have seen some real masters and some real disasters.  The following tips are based on actual occurrences.

Tip One:  Ask Questions.  Not only does this engage the customer and allow them to be part of the grooming process, it helps you delve into what it is they are specifically looking for and what you have to do to deliver satisfaction.  If the customer says they want a “puppy cut”, ask them how much hair they want LEFT on the dog, not how much you are to trim off.  Ask the customer what time they want to pick up their pet.  Don’t leave this open ended with a simple, “call when finished”.  Time after time, the customer’s interpretation of how long a groom should take is much different than yours.  Ask the client if they would like for you to perform certain extra services during grooming instead of waiting for the customer to request them.  Pick your top one or two extra services and ask every customer every time and your income will improve.  Ask the client to make their next appointment at the time of check out.  This reinforces the likelihood of their return and lessens dissatisfaction of not getting in when they need to because your schedule is booked.

Tip Two:  Don’t Assume.  While this is a lesson we can all use numerous times in our lives, it plays a particularly important role in the satisfaction of our grooming clientele. A style you think will look good on a pet, may not be what the pet owner has in mind.  Be specific in your description of the services you will be performing on the pet and define what expectations the pet owner should see at the completion of your work.  I have said it before, but although you may see dozens of pets each day, your client only sees their pet.  See the pets as individuals.  Don’t dictate what you WILL do on the pet, let the customer choose from what you CAN do for the pet.

Tip Three:  NO Surprises.  If there is something I cannot tolerate, it is unnecessary surprises.  I am a planner.  I plan and schedule everything I can so I am not put in a situation where myself and/or my clients are rushed, uneasy, emotional, or left to make a decision without all of the information needed to make the best of the situation.  If the pet is injured or becomes ill during grooming, no matter who is to blame, CALL the pet owner immediately.  If the time you gave the pet owner is not going to work out, CALL the pet owner immediately.  If the price of the groom has to be higher for things like special handling, extra tangles and brush out time, flea treatments, etc., CALL the pet owner immediately.  Why set yourself up for failure and conflict?  Both of which are sure to happen if you don’t communicate with the pet owner as soon as you should have.  I know this seems elementary, but lost customers happen because we surprise them with negative news when they were expecting something enjoyable; picking up their expertly groomed pet.

While I could go on and on with other examples of ways we can use “active listening” to our advantage, you can certainly use these situations to help you identify dozens of opportunities in your client and staff interactions and make your business successful and give your clients SATISFACTION!