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How I Find Work-Life Balance as the Owner of a Grooming Salon

Yes, it still involves dogs, but I love it!

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Diane Betelak

I OPENED MY GROOMING salon in 1982. I worked alone six days a week, Monday through Saturday. This lasted for about five years, and then I decided to close on Mondays and give myself a two-day weekend. Running a grooming business is hard work, mentally and physically, so balance is needed between work and everything else.

Finding that balance can be difficult, especially for those of us who put our hearts into our jobs. We all know the grind of putting in 10-plus hour days, only to go home and do paperwork, plus social media to promote our businesses. This work can and will take over our lives if we let it.

For me, balance began when I discovered grooming shows. Yes, I know, still business related, but they have brought so much more to my life. The first show I attended was Intergroom ’86, and the dog who won was a beautiful black Standard Poodle. I just had to have one and try this grooming competition stuff! I purchased my first Standard Poodle that summer, and here is where the balance comes into play: I wasn’t ready to groom competitively, so my boy and I did American Kennel Club conformation and obedience first.

This passion has evolved over the past 38 years to include other canine performance sports: agility, rally, and now dock diving and barn hunt. When I was ready to compete, grooming competitions eventually led me to becoming an educator for the Andis Company, which has allowed me to travel all over the United States and Canada, and judging grooming competitions.

Another key to finding balance has been having a sound support system. My husband has always been supportive of me being away. We make time for two weeks of camping and for travel to visit my family in Arizona every year, as well as holidays and weekend camping trips with family and friends.

My support system would also not be complete without awesome employees. It is important to have staff who understand your business principles. You need to be able to trust that they will run your salon the same as you would. This can be very difficult. As the saying goes, “You may have to kiss a few frogs before your prince shows up.” Don’t give up, keep looking — awesome employees are out there! Most of mine have stayed 10-plus years before moving on to either run their own salons or embark on other endeavors. Pay them their worth and show your appreciation.

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Now, 38 years later, I am working toward not working. It has been a roller coaster of a ride, and while I still enjoy my time in the salon, there is much more I want to do. I am slowly giving my daughter more responsibility and taking more time off. I stopped working Saturdays about five years ago and am working my way out of Fridays. The COVID-19 quarantine reminded me how much I love hiking in the woods (my current Standard Poodle, Danny, and I have put in many miles). I try to fit it in on my days off, but have also gone after a long day of grooming.

We wouldn’t be grooming dogs if we didn’t love doing it. However, try to find other activities to heal your soul. Find something that makes your heart race even just a little and do it!

Diane Betelak, NCMG, has owned Heads and Tails Professional Dog Grooming, Inc. in Liverpool, NY, since 1982. She groomed competitively in the U.S. and abroad and has numerous "Best in Shows" and "Best All-Around Groomer" wins and placings in prestigious competitions. In 1996, Diane qualified for the GroomTeam USA traveling team and went to Milan, Italy, where she won "Best in Show" with her Standard Poodle, helping the team clinch the gold medal. In addition, she has judged all major grooming shows throughout the United States and Canada, and is a certifier for N.D.G.A.A. In 1997, she was the recipient of the Cardinal Crystal Award for American Groomer of the Year, and in 2011 was named its Grooming Competition Judge of the Year. Although now retired from competitive grooming, Diane remains active as a grooming educator for Andis Company where she teaches the finer points of grooming across North America. Diane has also been showing championship Standard Poodles in confirmation and obedience since 1987, winning multiple titles. She is now actively competing in agility with her current poodles, Sid and Rickie Boa.

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