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Too Busy? What Now?

What do you do in a service-based industry like pet grooming when you’re too busy and booking way out? You have two choices: trim your clientele or expand your team. Melissa Verplank shares her secrets for balancing your workload. In this video, she’ll help you weigh the pros and cons of growth. How do you find a great groomer to grow your business? What are the pitfalls of trimming your clientele?

Want to read more about hiring professional groomers? Check out the Melissa Verplank library using this search.

Want to train a promising apprentice? Check out Paragon’s Distance Learning Program, where you can sponsor an employee to get the best pet grooming education available in the industry: Distance Learning


Melissa: Hi guys, Melissa here. Today, I want to talk to you about what is one of the hardest things about running a business. Honestly, the hardest thing about running a business isn’t about grooming the dogs, it isn’t about dealing with customers. The hardest thing about running a business once you start to grow, and that is finding staff. Absolutely, hands down, the hardest part. Not only finding staff, but dealing with staff.

Melissa: If you are finding yourself on that cusp of you’re really, really busy, and you’re questioning, what do you want to do, do you want to grow, do you want to hire help, so that you can service more clientele, or do you just want to scale it back a little bit and just keep it being a one man show? Sometimes, the one man show is a little bit easier to deal with. Only you, only you, know what’s right. What’s right in your heart and what you want to deal with. My advice to you is, if you find yourself just way overbooked, booking clients out so far in advance, that you just can’t get all your customers in, and you’re just basically running out of bandwidth for your own personal self and your family, then it’s time to either scale it back or to hire.

Melissa: If you need it scale it back and you want to do it without having to hire somebody, then one of the easiest ways to reduce your clients is simply by raising your price. That naturally will thin out the number of appointments that you’re going to have. Now, sometimes it won’t fix everything, and there is no way to really thin out your appointment book. It’s always going to be painful, because you’re going to have to use that word no. No is hard. If we’re in the service-based business, if we’re dealing with customers, we want to be that yes person. We want to do it all. We want to handle all the appointments.

Melissa: You get around and you’ve got some experience under your belt, and you know that you just can’t sacrifice yourself for your customers, using the no word is a whole lot easier. Honestly, one of the easiest ways to thin out your appointment book is simply by raising the prices. When you raise your prices, it does a couple things. Melissa: Number one, it gets rid of the lowest clients, not always the lowest, but it gets rid of clients that you just get frustrated to service because maybe the value isn’t there. It also really tells you who truly appreciates what you do for them.

Melissa: When you raise your prices, when you get through the challenging part, what’s left are clients that really appreciate what you do. Those are the best kinds of clients to have.

Melissa: Think about that. If you do want to grow your business through staff, know that finding staff, maintaining staff, and keeping staff happy, and working as a well-oiled machine, there is a lot more to it than just saying, I need help, and bringing somebody in, because at some point, you are going to pour so much of yourself into that team member, because most of the time, when you’re growing your business, you don’t have the systems in place that training them and getting them to understand what you do, and when somebody comes into your business, it’s your business. It’s your reputation that’s on the line.

Melissa: That team member has to be trained up to provide the services that you have built your reputation on. So many staff members just don’t really seem to realize that, it’s your name, that is on the bottom of their check. You are the one who’s calling the shots. In order to have a staff member working with you, or multiple staff members, you’ve got to be the leader, because if you’re not the leader, one of those other team members will be the leader. More than likely, that is not a good situation. That’s where you start running into a lot of issues with morale, with authority.

Melissa: You’ve got to be fair, but very, very firm. You just have to really think deep and hard, whether, not only do you want to deal with the growth of your business, but do you want to handle what comes along with adding staff. Not only do you have the, just emotional part of training that staff member and putting systems into place, and making rules and holding people accountable, but then you’ve also got a lot of the legal kind of stuff that you’ve got to deal with. The taxes, and the workman’s comp, and insurance, and all of those things.

Melissa: Now, a lot of that stuff can be delegated. Don’t let that weigh too heavily on you. You do have to deal with it. Just, before you grow your business, think hard, what you want to do. Do you just want to keep it simple, and do you just want to be that one man show, and just do what you love to do, and focus on the dogs that you are enjoying doing? Or, do you want to grow? Do you want to scale your business?

Melissa: There’s good and bad with both. The only person that is going to be able to answer that question is you. You are the owner of the business. You are the one that gets to make that decision. Think about the opportunities that you have, think about the downfalls that come. There’s always pros and cons with everything that you do. Weigh them out and do what’s right for you.

California Fire Victims Update

From November 16 – December 31, The Paragon School of Pet Grooming took the revenue from a groom a day and donated a total of $1,350 to the California Professional Pet Groomers Association (CPPGA).

Having experienced a devastating fire herself, Melissa Verplank realizes the importance of giving back when able, and challenges The Paragon Team and other business owners to do the same!

Below is a special update from Melissa Verplank on Paragon’s impact on the California Fire Victims:

Melissa: Hi, guys, Melissa here. You know, awhile ago I talked to you about the California wildfires and how devastating that was, not only for everybody involves, but especially the grooming community. There was a group of core folks in California that really pulled together and started raising money to help these guys get back on their feet and put their businesses back together. It was pretty amazing in a very short amount of time how much money they were able to raise for those folks that really really needed some help. And I’ve lived through a fire, and it was a barn fire. And we came out okay with that particular situation, but living through that fire, I know how difficult it can be and sure, insurance came in and ultimately we got a beautiful new barn, but initially, I mean, what we needed just to get ourself back on our feet, all of our horses were fine, but everything that they needed burned in that fire, from the hay, to feed, to lead lines, to halters. Stuff that we needed immediately.

Melissa: As soon as the fire was somewhat under control, we went down to our local TSC, luckily they kept the doors open for us, because I think we were going down just before they closed, and we called and they said they would hold the doors open. So, really a great situation with TSC, but I think we dropped probably $800 just in initial stuff that we needed in 15 or 20 minutes. We had quite a few horses, and we needed a lot of stuff. And so, that’s where this money was coming in for the folks that had situations with a fire where they lost their businesses, they lost all their equipment, they lost everything. They needed so initial finding just to get back up on their feet immediately following those fire.

Melissa: At any rate, the Paragon School, what we started doing, was we took a groom a day and the revenues that we earned from that groom, we put into kind of a kitty. And I just wanted to let you know how that turned out and we’re still donating that money, but this was for the fire situation. We sent off money initially and then, we just kept raising money. From November 16 to December 31, we were able to raise, at the Paragon School, donating just one groom a day, $1,350 and that is going to be heading off to California just to continue to help with that funding to get those folks back on their feet.

Melissa: One of the things that I just said to my team was, “Guys, this was so easy. One dog a day. We’re able to take the revenue that that one, just that single dog generated and put it into a pool that we’re able then to turn around and give back and help somebody who was really really in need.” And I said, “I think we just need to keep doing this.”

Melissa: So, I’m going to challenge all of you that if you’ve got a business that’s going well, what can you do to help somebody who might not be having it go so well. I mean, there’s so many natural disasters that affect businesses in the grooming community. And I said, “Let’s go ahead and just keep it rolling and keep putting that money aside so the next time there’s a crisis that we can go ahead and step up to the plate right away and send that fast check that people need well before the insurance companies will step in to help them get back on their feet.”

Melissa: My challenge to you is do the same thing. Not everybody has a perfect day and life doesn’t always go exactly the way you think you want it to go. And so, I just feel really good about being able to help those people that need a little help to get started before insurance kicks into place when a natural disaster strikes.

Maintaining Mental Control

Melissa: Hey guys, Melissa Verplank here. And I want to talk to you today about one of my time-saving tips, and that is about mental control. You know, when you’re working with dogs, being in control of your mental attitude is so critical. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing with a customer, whether you’re dealing with a dog, or whether you’re just dealing with yourself, but you’ve got to be in mental control. And Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” And that phrase and that quote has always resonated with me. And so, the next time that you’re feeling a little out of control, that you’re not totally got your mental capacity totally with you, I want you to stop and take a deep breath, and go, and look at either stepping away from the situation for a moment, or putting it into a more positive light.

Melissa: So, let’s take an example of a day that maybe hasn’t gone quite the way that you would really like it to go. So, when you’ve got a day where, you know, you walk in and you’ve got way more on the roster than what you would really like to have on it … Maybe you’ve got a client with three bichons, and then maybe you’ve got an American cocker that is in pretty tough shape. And then of course, there’s got to get a doodle tossed in there because everybody’s doing doodles these days. Okay, that’s a big job. And then you’ve got a golden retriever, and then you’ve got maybe a lawson, a Shih Tzu. And, there’s just more on your schedule than what you are comfortable with. And you know, whether you think you can get through that day or you think you can’t, you’re right. So, if you go in there and you start worrying, and you start fretting, and you start pointing fingers at somebody because somebody else booked you too many dogs, you’re going to get frustrated. You’re going to lose that mental control.

Melissa: So, what I really encourage you to think about is look at the positives that can come out of that day. You know, you’ve got three bichons, and being able to practice and repetition is always one of the best ways to perfect any skill. So, all of a sudden you got three bichons. You can focus on your scissor work. Or, maybe you’re struggling with heads. And so, you’ve got three opportunities to work on styling that head. You’re going to get through those dogs and move on to the next one. The next one, okay, so it’s that American cocker. It’s going to go short. How long? I mean, it doesn’t take that much to get a five or a seven all on a dog. So put your head down, get through it, and move on to the next one.

Melissa: And maybe the next one is that monster doodle. You know, we’ve all got them these days. But you know what? You’ve got the skills to get through that dog in a relatively short amount of time. And you know, half of it is in the bath and the dry. So, if you’ve perfected your bathing skills, and you’ve perfected your drying skills, by the time that dog comes out into the finished area for this final haircut, you got this, you know? You’re going to be able to utilize your clippers, and your guard combs, and your scissors. And you know what? If you make a blunder somewhere, that’s all right, because that’s where your thinning shears are going to come in. Thinning shears are the pet stylist eraser. So, pull those thinners out, get rid of those mars, and just keep moving on to the next dog.

Melissa: And you know what? If you maintain that positive attitude, maintain that mental control throughout the entire course of the day, you’re going to get through it in no time. So, whether you think you can get through your day or you think you can’t, you’re right. And I certainly encourage you to stay positive and get through it with a smile, because that’s the name of the game.

Pet Groomers in California Need Our Help

Our fellow pet groomers in California need our help! Join us and make a donation to the California Professional Pet Groomers Association (CPPGA). This organization will help fund those in need and distribute the funds that come from your generous donations.

We have accepted the “Groom One for California” challenge of sending the proceeds from one grooming per day and we are asking you to do the same. Any amount helps!

Below is a special message from Melissa Verplank and the link to make your donation: https://www.paypal.me/CPPGA

The Paragon School of Pet Grooming Introduces the NEW Distance Learning Program

Blast from the Past! An interview with Melissa Verplank and Colin Taylor

5 Easy Ways to Give Yourself a Raise

Let’s face it, many salon owners aren’t charging as much as they feel they should. Local competition and price-sensitive clients are two strong reasons why. In some cases, grooming rates are already as high as considered possible without losing customers.

In most service-based businesses, payroll is the highest expense. A typical grooming business pays out more than 50% to 60% in payroll, alone. When salons are paying out those percentages, raises are rare.

We’ve talked to lots of groomers. It’s no surprise that one of the main complaints with their jobs is not making enough money. It’s not all about the money but having fair compensation for the work we do is not unreasonable!

When people come to me and ask how they can earn more, I always remind them that time is money – regardless of how you are paid. The faster you can get through a pet safely, the more money you will ultimately make.

5 Easy Ways to Give Yourself a Raise

Use Guard Combs

Guard combs are one of the easiest ways to speed up your grooming. They allow you to set consistent length over the dog quickly. With the variety of lengths, it’s easy to customize the haircut just by switching out the guard comb. When working with guard combs you don’t need the time it takes to get a beautiful scissor finish. This is a much safer option that also minimizes the stress large amounts of hand scissoring can cause.

Invest in Chunkers

This scissor style is taking the industry by storm. Chunkers are oversized thinning shears or blending shears with wider teeth. In some cases, they can be used for the entire groom. Chunkers give a beautiful natural finish in no time.

Some stylists choose to use them in conjunction with scissor or guard comb work. When used in this manner, they dust the top of the coat, removing any imperfections swiftly. There are plenty of styles to choose from with a wide price point based on the quality of the shear. Talk to other pet stylists before you invest in a pair. Find out which chunkers are their favorites and then try them out before you buy them.

Add Accessories

Pet parents are spending more on their dogs. Many clients love a little bling – and it doesn’t always have to be shiny! It’s easy to upsell special accessories:

  • special bows
  • bandannas
  • feather extensions
  • nail wraps
  • temporary color
  • pup tattoos
  • jeweled neckwear
  • bow ties and ties
  • temporary body bling
  • feather eyelashes

There is no limit to the creativity you can have – as long as it is safe for the pet. It’s a fun way to add a little extra revenue and get people talking!

Up-Grade Specialized Shampoos or Services

Every salon has its favorite economical go-to shampoo. But what if your clients had a choice? For some clients, nothing is too good for their pets. Many spa lines of pet shampoo do a fabulous job getting the dog clean and smelling fabulous. There are many specialty shampoos that treat special skin and coat conditions. Most of the time they cost a little bit more than your everyday shampoo. There’s no reason to charge the same. Some specialty shampoos need to sit on the pet a little bit longer to be effective (if it takes extra time it should also add a little more cost). Consider these liquid tool gold mines:

  • blueberry facials
  • anti-itch shampoos
  • odor neutralizing treatments
  • skin and coat remoisturizing treatments
  • deshedding shampoos

Try a paw-i-cure instead of just trimming the nails. This type of service is a package deal. It includes:

  • filing nails with a Dremel to get them smooth and short
  • trimming the coat between the pads
  • sometimes a skin soothing ointment is even included for rough foot pads.

Many of these upsells don’t take any more time to do yet add more income to you or the business.

Stay Focused

Don’t get distracted. Most small to medium-sized basic grooms should take about an hour to do. If someone else is bathing for you, the finish trimming should only take between 20 to 30 minutes for the same sized basic groom.  Minimize the idle chitchat with your coworkers. Put your cell phone on silent and deal with it when YOU have time. Keep your station highly organized. Create a routine for everything you do from start to finish. The more dogs crossing your table translates into more money going into your pocket. Sometimes it’s in the form of a paycheck, sometimes it’s in the form of tips.

It doesn’t matter if you are commission or hourly. The efforts you put out will create faster grooms, higher-quality trims, delighted customers, and repeat business. Applying these five tips can help you groom dogs better in less time while providing great service for your customers – while adding cash to your pocket!

Happy trimming!


What are some ways that you’ve tried? What works for you? Go to our Facebook page and chat with your Melissa Verplank family!

Spring Trip 2018

My husband, Marc and I are back from a four-week working road trip. For the past few years, we’ve traveled for almost the entire month of March. After all – who wants to be in Michigan in March? Each Spring, we’ve loaded up our bikes, kayaks, dogs, and filming gear and hit the road.

crystal riverThe trip this year started out with the Atlanta Pet Fair before heading south to Florida. Our itinerary included lots of work but also plenty of downtime. We kayaked with the manatees in Crystal Springs and enjoyed the unbelievable clarity of the Rainbow River. On one of the rivers we kayaked, we came a bit too close to a large alligator sunning himself on the bank. I swear it looked like an old tire sitting on the river bank – until it MOVED! We paddled away very quickly!

JumpingWe attended the Live Oaks International Horse Show where we watched show jumping and the exhilarating marathon driving event. The show jumping took me back to my younger years when I showed hunters and jumpers.  With each stride and jump, I was right there with the rider.

I had never seen a marathon driving event before – what a blast! Top carriage drivers maneuvered their horse(s) through a complex pattern of VERY solid obstacles in the quickest time possible. It was thrilling to watch these skilled teams flying through the obstacles.Friesians Live Oaks

Soon we were headed to the west side of South Florida where we spent some great quality time with Marc’s family.

Then the work started.

We had multiple Learn2GroomDogs.com film shoots with some amazing people. We filmed with Randi Sands, Irina (Pina) Pinkusevich, and Joshua Morales.  We then toured Kathy Rose’s new salon, Pets of Perfection. From there, we drove to Orlando to film with Lindsey Dicken. As soon as we finished, we drove to see Angela Kumpe for some creative grooming just outside Little Rock, Arkansas.

kayakingFilming and learning with these talented stylists was amazing. One thing really stood out: the increased use of thinning shears. They’re being used more often and the variety of thinners and blenders is growing. It seems they are becoming as important to everyone’s collections as smooth bladed shears.

Finally, it was time to return to Michigan, but we had one more stop to make. As we made our way home, we stopped at our St. Louis office to visit our newest team member, Joe Zuccarello, and meet his family for the first time.

We made it home just in time for the last gasp of Winter. Being on the road was a wonderful experience. It was an amazing trip filled with a nice balance of work and down time.

Happy trimming!


Share photos of YOUR trip or stay-cation on our Facebook page with your Melissa Verplank family!

Bardel Bows – Success Comes from Sweating the Details

Pineola FarmsThe Atlanta Pet Fair was the kickoff for trade shows east of the Mississippi. To my husband Marc and myself, the Atlanta Pet Fair signals a month-long road trip in our motor coach.

I love this trip. As we drive from the frigid north country, we see spring explode as we drive south. Instead of seeing a season slowly wake up, we see it in full bloom in a matter of hours. I get so excited as I see the first daffodils, the first red buds blooming, and the leaves just giving a hint of green. By the time we hit Atlanta, spring is upon us. It’ll only be a matter of time before our kayaks will be in the water and our bikes hit the trails.

After the Atlanta Pet Fair, we schedule film shoots for Learn2GroomDogs.com. We enjoy filming Training Partners in their salons and many of live in the southern section of the United States. We’ve gotten very good at combining work and relaxing downtime for ourselves.

Normally our schedule is very rigid, but this year we cut ourselves some slack. Between the Atlanta Pet Fair and our first film shoot, we had a little bit of unscheduled time.

As we were just starting our trip, Delise of Bardel Bows contacted me. She and her husband Paul invited us to spend some time with them at their home, Pineola Farms. A few industry friends had shared with me how unique their home was. This southern plantation was established in 1865. In 1997 they bought the farm. Delise and Paul fell in love with the property’s rich history. They have taken it upon themselves to be the caretakers of this property while keeping the original family history firmly in place.

Group PhotoWe have been acquaintances with Paul and Delise Knight for years but never really gotten to know them. At trade shows I’ve always been impressed with the volume of beautiful bows they had at their booth. They always seemed to be busy.

We left directly from the convention center after the Atlanta Pet Fair. The farm was less than two hours down the road.

I knew their barn had been used for special events and weddings for the previous 10 years. However, Bardel Bows had grown so quickly in the past few years they opted to stop doing events. Recently, they moved the bow company into the barn.

The barn was huge. It had a warm, friendly, and rustic elegance to it. The views from the lower level were amazing over the pecan orchard. Every bit of the space was functional. When I toured the work areas, I just smiled. It was more than just the gorgeous bows making me smile. It was their passion and attention to detail.

Success comes from sweating the details. Paul and Delise make a great team when it comes to details. Their personalities complement each other perfectly.

Here are a few of the items setting Bardel Bows apart.

  • Bardel Bows have been designed by a groomer – for groomers.
  • Delise owned a grooming salon in Georgia for years.
  • Bardel Bows has been producing high quality, hand-tied dog bows for the pet grooming industry since 1989.
  • All their bows are produced in Georgia by professional bow makers using the highest quality materials available.
  • All their bows are handmade using long-lasting and sturdy latex bands.
  • The unique design of Bardel Bows makes application a snap.
  • Bardel Bows stocks hundreds of different grooming bows making up collections for every season.

Bow detailWe were amazed at the level of professionalism and organization we saw at their headquarters. The VOLUME of bows and accessories – it blew my mind!! Every week Paul makes the rounds to their home based bow makers. He drops off supplies and picks up thousands of finished items.

Delise gave me a tour of the upper level of the barn. I was so honored. Not everyone gets to see this area. It’s very private and the creative nerve center of Bardel Bows. I could have stayed there for DAYS letting my own creative juices flow!

Delise and Paul have carved out a special niche in the grooming industry with their beautiful bows and accessories. However, their commitment to serve others goes way deeper than just running a successful bow business.

Mary Kay Ash said, “Give of yourself. Be of service to others. Only what you give can be multiplied back into your own life.”

We learned quickly that Paul and Delise live by this Mary Kay Ash quote. I think it’s a part of the warm southern culture. We saw and heard how they implement this thought every day in their lives, home, business, community, and how they interact with their employees and their customers.

Here is just one tiny example. They gave out over 600 cupcakes at the Atlanta Pet Fair to venders and clients simply to introduce a new line of bows. The new line was introduced in the early spring of 2018 and called the Cupcake Collection.

DogIf you haven’t tried Bardel Bows to accessorize your grooms, I encourage you to give them a try. Their bows and accessories are fabulous. You can even find our older Maremma Sheepdog, Pearl modeling a large Fancy Spring Frill collar and a princess crown. Plus, I guarantee you’ll have a wonderful experience with their entire team!

Happy trimming!



What are your favorite grooming products? Let’s talk about it on our Facebook page with your Melissa Verplank family.

Salvage Work

Spring is here – and not a moment too soon!  Many of us will be seeing a lot of pets that are ready for a great makeover in the coming weeks.

As many of you know, I’m a big dog person.  Working on these large furry dogs that have a huge shedding problem is one of my favorite things to do in a grooming salon. Over the years I’ve gotten really quick with the process and rarely cringe, no matter what the size of the dog, nor the condition.

My #1 rule is: Never work on a dirty dog. If water can penetrate the coat, let your products do the job.

Working on a dirty dog is not only unpleasant, but it also takes longer to do.  There will be a lot of coat damage and breakage.  A dirty coat is dry and brittle. The dirt and dander trapped within the fur makes it more difficult to brush out. Working on a clean coat will be easier for both you and the pet – and much more enjoyable.

If there are large chunks that water cannot penetrate, go ahead and break up the tangle using the tool that is safe for the pet.  Don’t worry about removing it completely, just break it apart so the water and shampoo can do their job.

Prepare your bathing area.  If the dog is exceptionally dirty, use a shampoo especially designed for dirty dogs.  Using a follow-up treatment of a skin and coat conditioner after bathing twice (or maybe three times in some areas) will assist with the brush out and dead coat removal during the drying process.  Make sure you have all the tools you’ll need to aid in getting the dog clean, like rubber curries or scrub brushes.  Make sure you have plenty of towels handy!

My favorite trick when working with this type of job is to bring my high velocity dryer right into the bathing area.  With the dog fully lathered, blow the shampoo right off the pet while it is tethered in the tub.  The slippery soap will allow the dirt, loose coat, and tangles slide out. The clumps will be trapped in the shampoo and will stick to the back wall of the tub, minimizing the mess.  Not all the shedding coat or mats will be removed but a lot will, making your job easier once you transfer to the drying table.  Once you have blown out the pet, follow up with the rinsing process.  Repeat this process as many times as necessary to get the dog “squeaky clean.”

Once the pet is clean and thoroughly rinsed, apply a skin and coat conditioning treatment before heading to the drying table.  Read your directions: some conditioning treatments need to be rinsed out while others do not.  Your high velocity dryer and a heavy slicker brush will be your best friends during the drying process.index

Rule # 2: Be Methodical and Thorough

First, blow out as much moisture and loose coat at possible with the air flow.  Use the highest power setting the pet is comfortable with along with a condenser cone.  Once you have pushed as much water and loose fur from the pet, remove the condenser cone and bring the air flow close to the pet’s skin.  “Boost” any loose coat out of the dog by lightly patting the area with a slicker brush where the air is striking the skin.

Continue to work over the dog in a methodical manner until your brush glides through the coat easily and no more loose coat is trapped in the brush.

Rule #3 – ENJOY!

When the dog is complete, it should smell clean and fresh.  The coat should be glossy and float freely as the dog moves.  There should be an irresistible desire to reach down and bury your hands in a freshly groomed pet.

Happy trimming!



What are your favorite tools and shampoos to use for those tough jobs? What secret tricks did we miss? Let’s talk about it on our Facebook page with your Melissa Verplank family.

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