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There’s No Black and White in Dog Grooming

In this video, Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank discusses a concept that Lisa Leady shared during a www.Learn2GroomDogs.com video shoot: There’s no black and white in grooming, but there’s a lot of gray. In this context, how do you evaluate techniques and products? Melissa suggests answering these questions:
Is it safe for the pet? Is it safe for the groomer? Will it yield a quality product? Will it be efficient?

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Transcript
Melissa V: Melissa here, and I want to share with you a thought process that is kind of a combination of both my thought process and a thought that Lisa Leady shared on one of her Learn to Groom video shoots years ago. And the thought that Lisa shared with me and to our Learn to Groom audience was that there is no black and white in dog grooming. If you’ve ever followed Lisa, you’ve probably heard her say that.

Over the years you’ve heard me say it that there is absolutely no black and white, there is no right or wrong in dog grooming, but what there is, is a lot of shades of gray. So, what you want to think about, and this is where I kind of took her thought process and applied my line of questioning to that. Before I test out any new product, test out any new technique, think about doing something different than what I might have done in the past is I always ask these four questions.

Question number one is, will whatever I’m going to use or do be safe for the pet? Number two is, is it safe for me? Is it safe for the groomer? Is it going to be ergonomically safe for me long term, or is it going to be safe for me from a physical standpoint? So stop and think about that. Number one, is it safe for the pet. Number two, is it safe for you? Number three, will it yield a quality product because if you can’t yield a quality product, you’re not going to have customers coming back for your services. So, number three is going to be, does it yield a quality product? Number four is the question I always, always ask is, will it be efficient? Now, maybe it won’t be efficient the first time I try out a new technique or a new product. I might have to get the feel of it a little bit better, but down the road, will it be efficient if I utilize this product or this technique?

So, there you have it. Those are the four questions that I always ask whenever I’m dealing with the multiple shades of gray that we have with professional pet grooming. It’s:

1. Is it safe for the pet?

2. Is it safe for you?

3. Will it yield a quality product?

4. Will it be efficient?

So, I want you to ask that question every time that you’re thinking about testing out a new technique, looking at a new product, or doing anything a little bit different than what you have normally done before. Sometimes little switched in what you’re doing can make a big impact in your bottom line, but you always want to make sure that it’s safe, that it is going to be efficient, and that it’s going to yield a quality result. If you can answer all four of the questions and get a “yes” answer, try it. That’s one of the beauties of professional pet grooming is there’s lots of ways to do the same thing based on the situation that you’re dealing with on that particular moment.


Melissa’s Story – The Many Paths to Professional Grooming

Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank describes her own unique path to a career in grooming and the importance of the motto: Education is Everything!

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Transcript

<strong>Melissa V:</strong> Hi guys, Melissa here. Today I want to share with you my own personal story of how I got involved with professional pet grooming. I don’t normally share this story a whole lot. I don’t generally like to talk about myself. But I was recently at a meeting with my team, and I don’t know how we got on the topic, but I launched into something about my early career. It was like they just stopped, and they listened.

When I got done talking, they said, “Melissa, you have got to share that story. It is so similar to all of the students and the people that we talk to. We really think that it would resonate and help people, especially when they’re stuck or whether they’re questioning is this the right career for them, is this something they want to get involved in or stay in involved in, and maybe what are the paths that are available out there for somebody if you don’t want to continue to stand at the grooming table.”

I said, “All right, fine. I’ll share.” So it’s a longer story. I mean when I look at my career timeline, I started in probably the late 70s. Obviously, I’m still working within the industry today. So I don’t want to take time to dig into all of the details, so I’m going to kind of hit on some of the highlights in the early days, and some of those really tough transitional periods that I had, that I had to make some decisions whether I stayed with the industry or whether I moved on.

I got involved with professional pet grooming like so many other people do. I was passionate about pets. It was dogs, cats, horses. I mean, if it had fur and four legs, I was all over it. I loved it. I was one of those kids that was actually grooming the neighbor dogs. This is back before I ever even dreamt of being a groomer. I didn’t even know that was a career choice for somebody. I was finding neighbor dogs, and brushing the Collies and the Springers, and making them look better.

I was probably seven or eight, something like that. Okay, so I love the animals. We had dogs of our own. As I was going through high school, I became one of those troubled kids. I was never a very good student. In fact, I was held back early in elementary school. I have a bit of dyslexia, and that still haunts me a little bit today. Not only was I a problem academically as a student who was at a struggle, school was a struggle for me, but I was also pretty much a problem child for my parents as well.

I come from a divorced family, and I lived with my mom and my step-dad, and it just wasn’t going so well. I became very, very rebellious and very challenging. So challenging that it was suggested that I be sent away to a private boarding school. Little did I know at the time, that ultimately probably saved my life. It also gave me the focus and the passion to follow my dreams, and the courage to follow my dreams.

I would have never guessed that a little tiny school called Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale, Colorado, could do that. But, they had amazing people out there that really helped formulate young people and sent them onto a path that was very positive and productive. Blessing. I was very fortunate. I had a counselor who is a friend and I’m still in touch with her today. Sandy, hey. Love you. But she said… She was my counselor, and even out there I struggled with my academics.

She really fought for me to stay at the school, even though my grades really probably didn’t and shouldn’t have allowed me to stay. I did have a very positive, outgoing personality. Sandy said, “Melissa when you find what you love, there is going to be no stopping you.” Shortly after I graduated from CRMS, I did find my passion. I found it through a boarding kennel, and I started working at this kennel.

At the time, it was a very progressive kennel. Again, this is way back in the day. We had about 200 runs in total. I was kennel help. I scooped poop. I fed. That’s what I did, and I really loved it. I was able to interact with the dogs and I loved the responsibility. I loved working with pets. We did have a grooming department, and one day the groomer was let go. My boss called me at home that night and told me what had happened, and she said to me, “You have a new role. You are no longer kennel help. You are now the groomer.”

I’m the groomer? I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve never groomed a dog. Okay, I’d bathed some dogs, and I had brushed some dogs on my own, but I had no training, no anything. The first day, my first day as a “groomer”, I had six dogs to get through and no clue how to do them. I had an old book which really wasn’t that great, but I did have a book. I did have my boss, who did some grooming a little bit on the side. So she kind of mentored me and coached me, but for the most part, I was left to my own devices to figure this out. I just had to do it.

After a while, I realized that okay, I kind of like it. It’s kind of fun. I started to get a little bit better at it, feeling a little bit more confident. You don’t take pictures of work that you’re not proud of, so at some point, I pulled out a camera and I started taking pictures of the work that I was doing. Fast forward to early days of the Paragon School of Pet Grooming, and I had found these photos, and I just kind of laughed at them and knew how far I had come from looking at these photos.

I brought them in to show to the students. I didn’t say who had groomed the dogs. I just passed the photos out, and they were sort of passing them through the students, and the students were just in shock. They were in shock, but they’re laughing because the work was so bad compared to what it should have been. One of the students just was staring at one of the photos, and just “Who did this? This is atrocious.”

When I quietly said, “That was my work early on,” they didn’t know what to make of it. I mean, they just didn’t know what to say, what to think, what to do. So I’m here to tell you that you can teach yourself. It certainly helps to have a mentor. It certainly helps to have a program. It has something to speed the process up, but those early photos that those students were looking at, one of them was an English Cocker. The book very clearly said use a 10 or a 15 blade on the back, and draw a straight line down the side of the dog.

I mean truly, it was a stuffed pig with a tutu. I mean it was pathetic. There was no blending. That straight line, it was straight. The other that happens when you have a dog that is flecked with color, when you shave it close you end up with spots, and then the longer coat is still softly mottled. So you’ve got two totally different things going on. I mean it was… Another one was a Schnauzer. I took a forward facing of a Schnauzer, and the book clearly said shave out underneath the eyes.

So what you ended up with was just like this big long mustache. I had no idea you needed to leave fill under the eyes, and that you want straight lines along the sides of the head. On all your rectangular head Terriers. I had no idea. So I shaved it out and gave that dog that hourglass look. Or, the Poodle that I put flood waters on halfway up its leg, and I had no idea that with tied up topknots, that it was hair that was all pulled up. Oh no, what do I do? I shave from the very top above the eyes, halfway back the skull. I shaved it, and then I pulled up the coat.

This is how uneducated I was, and people were paying to have me groom their dogs. They were crazy, but our clients didn’t know. I didn’t know. So I’m going to tell you, if that was my starting point, and today I’ve written one of the top books about professional pet grooming, I speak on the subject, I’m an award-winning stylist. I mean, I have hit so many high points in my career with continuing education and helping other people get, and start, and build a career that truly anybody can do it, guys.

You’ve just got to know where you’ve started from and then move forward from that point. For me, education was really critical in those early days. I didn’t know that much, but what I did have available to me was because my boss was pretty progressive in the industry, she did get periodicals, she got magazines, and she had them up in the storeroom. The restroom was upstairs next to the storeroom, so every time I ran up to use the restroom before I came back down to work I would sneak into that storage room and I would grab one of those magazines and I’d start flipping through it.

You know, I felt like I was looking at Play Girl magazine or something. But what it told me is that there was a much bigger world out there that was just starting. Grooming competitions were just getting started. Certification organizations were just in their early stages. They were just getting started. So I realized that if I really, truly wanted to do this as a career, I had to improve. I had to get better. So I started going to the grooming trade shows. I started sitting ringside the competition. I started finding out what was involved with certification testing.

Honestly, I just jumped in. So I am totally self-taught, but I think that my education, it took a lot longer than what it would take somebody today because of the accessibility to so much more material, so much more education. Educational resources are at your fingertips. I knew that education was the key, and I was able to get a really well-rounded education because I was… Finally, I did. I was very competitive. I stepped into the ring and I learned so much by entering that first grooming competition.

That first grooming competition, I thought I was good. Man, was I wrong. But I went back, I licked my wounds a little bit, and then I went, “I’m going to figure this out.” And so I started to study. I entered the ring not to win, not to place, but to learn. So the ring was a really big foundation of my education. You can learn a lot by having your judges go over your dogs, but also just by the people that were around me. I could look directly into their toolkit and see what tools and products they were using.

I could watch them as they groomed. I could see what their techniques were. Pretty soon, they became my friends. We started sharing ideas, and sharing this and sharing that, and communicating to one another. Just one thing led to another. That’s the one thing that getting out there, not being that one individual person on an island all by yourself, I really encourage people to get out there and communicate with other people in the field. Network with each other, because networking will allow you to grow your career.

It will allow you to share information, and it will put you in a position where opportunities are going to literally fall in your lap. The more you know, the more education you have, the more readily available those opportunities will come to you, and you can actually act on them. So today, one of my key phrases, and our key phrases in all of the educational companies, is “Education is everything.” I cannot stress that enough. Education absolutely is everything.

I have set so many goals for myself. I have hit so many high points in my career. Every time I hit a high point, I just look at what can I do next? How can I help somebody improve what they’ve done? How can I short step it so that they don’t have to struggle maybe the way that I did. When I look at my career timeline, and I know you really can’t see it and it’s backwards, just know that it’s pretty extensive year by year what I’ve been able to accomplish.

Somebody said recently that it’s like, “Wow, you’ve accomplished so much.” To me, it’s basically been almost a 40-year success story because it happened in very small increments, and I just kept going and going, and going, and looking at what I could accomplish next. When my body gave up, and my hands seized up, and I couldn’t stay at the grooming table, that was a real adversity for me but I was able to turn around and say, “Okay, fine. My hands aren’t going to work for grooming anymore, but what else? I’ve learned so much. How can I share what my knowledge is?”

That’s one of the reasons that I started this school. That’s really all of the educational programs or educational products and programs that we’ve been able to put together have all stemmed from, how can I share the wealth of information that I have in my head and get it out there to help others hopefully have as rewarding of a career as I’ve been to have.

My career is not over. That’s one of the coolest parts about the pet grooming industry, is you can make professional grooming be whatever you want it to be, whether you want to be a stay-at-home and just stay small, that’s fine. But if you have aspirations to grow your career, to travel the world, to work with teams of people, to help pets, to help pet parents make their animals be more appealing to be around, if you want to be creative, all of these things come into play with professional pet grooming.

There is no limit to what the career is, other than the limitations that you place on yourself.


Simplifying Dog Grooming with The Theory of Five

Certified Master Groomer and author Melissa Verplank talks about the evolution of The Theory of Five – a method of grooming she developed to create reproducible results and systematic communication with team groomers and clients. From it’s early inception to the foundation it has become for dog grooming instruction, the Theory of Five has helped groomers around the world save time and make money.

If you’d like to purchase The Theory of Five, Click Here.

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Transcript
Melissa V: Hi, guys, Melissa here. I want to talk to you a little bit about my newly revised The Theory Of 5 book. Some of you guys don’t necessarily know the history of why The Theory Of 5 was even created and, to me, understanding the “why” of anything is really important.

So when I first started to think about The Theory Of 5, it wasn’t because it was just this great concept that I had; it was because I had a problem. It was back in the mid 80s. I was running a fleet of mobile dog grooming units. And this is way before mobile dog grooming was even remotely cool; I was definitely a forerunner with that. I had a team of groomers and stylists and we were kind of off in our own little island. You know? Keep in mind this was in the 80s. It was before the age of cellphones and we worked with two-way radios, because that was our only way to really communicate and there wasn’t a whole lot of good training for groomers out at that time.

So here I’ve got a whole fleet of mobile vans out there with groomers in them, and no consistent training. So I’m having to do a lot of training to bring everybody onto the same page because when I’ve got a customer that was calling Four Paws Mobile Grooming – which was the name of my company back in the day – I wanted to be able to send a groomer to their doorstep that could offer very consistent styling within the entire team. So it didn’t necessarily matter if we sent Anna, or we sent Melissa, or we sent Kim, to the client’s driveway, that we could all groom somewhat similarly, and the client could be satisfied with a number of different groomers and know that they were going to get a consistent result every single time they called my company to book an appointment.

Well in reality that wasn’t the case. Everybody was off doing their own thing. I was doing, at the time, a lot of competition-level grooming. I was working on my certification to get my master’s status and so I was really focused on the higher level of grooming. And my team? Meh, not so much. They were just interested in making a dollar, and paying their bills, and they weren’t as focused on the upper level of grooming. And so I really had to figure out a way to simplify the very complicated process of breed profile, trimming, and corrective grooming, so that they could duplicate what I was doing out there in the field.

So that’s really how The Theory Of 5 got started was it was a loose, kind of a raw concept that I started to work on and work on, and over the years I’ve really been able to fine tune it. And once I started introducing it, it started to simplify the entire grooming process and my team was being able to create a very consistent result for my clients – which is exactly what I wanted. I wanted to bring unity to what we were doing as we serviced the customers. The Theory Of 5 was able to do that, utilizing pet grooming techniques and tools, and so we were really working a lot with our clippers, with different lengths of blades, and guard combs, and minimizing the amount of hand scissoring that we were doing, really looking at anatomy closely, and working on how to bring out the best features of the pet, and then looking at how to simplify that so that we could use it very easily and very simply.

And so, bottom line, The Theory Of 5 deals with there are five different areas that we work with every single day. And within those five different areas, there are five things. So basically you’re looking at five different types of jobs that we do every single day. And within that there’s five different body styles, five different head styles, five different ear styles, five different feet and leg styles, and five different tail styles.

So it takes and it compartmentalizes the grooming so that you know exactly what area you’re talking about. And as I have developed The Theory Of 5, and there’s been clarity with the whole concept, I have been able to apply it in so many different areas of working within the professional pet grooming field.

So one of the things that I love about it is not only is it really flexible, but if offers unique styling for each dog – not because the trims are different, but because the dogs are all a little bit different. Each pet is going to be unique. They’re going to have different physical size and shape. They’re going to have different coat textures. They’re going to be different colors. And so when you start combining all of those things together, you end up with a very unique trim for each and every dog. And like I said, it takes the complicated method of grooming and simplifies it and refines it down to an application that is super easy to apply out in the field for each individual groomer to be thorough with what they’re doing, to give great direction. It’s super easy to communicate with a client because now you have a system that you can talk with them and get a very consistent result over and over again. Also, it’s really easy to teach it. That’s the beauty of The Theory Of 5.

Over the years, it hasn’t stayed a very simple concept. It has certainly expanded and there’s lots of different ways that we’ve been able to use it. I’ve been using this theory for well over 30 years and every time that we apply it into a new category, a new way, it seems to work really well for us. Whether it’s just giving grooming direction or whether it’s for mobile, it works. In a salon setting, it works. If you’re dealing with training students, it works. When you’re communicating with customers, it works. Over and over again, The Theory Of 5 is an application that you can use in many, many different ways.

So those are just some of the things that I really love about The Theory Of 5. The book is simple. Notes From the Grooming Table, that is the big … kind of the grooming bible is what a lot of people call it. I think of Theory Of 5 as just the simple book that you can sit down, you can pick up, there’s lots of images in there, there’s drawings, there’s photographs. There’s not a whole lot of reading involved and so you can just pick it up and get through it really quickly. It’s very simple to understand, which kind of goes along with the whole concept of simplifying the complicated; that’s exactly what I’ve been able to do in The Theory Of 5.

And just as Notes From the Grooming Table went through a revision a few years ago, we did the same exact thing with The Theory Of 5. And so we have updated it with some new images. We’ve added some new tools that maybe when I first wrote the book they weren’t available to us, and now they are and they’re just tools that we work with all the time. We’ve even added a few new breeds into the book and changed the front cover. And, heavens, one of the most popular breeds that we’re all dealing with every single day is the doodle. So we show how to utilize The Theory Of 5 and apply it to a mixed breed, a doodle-type dog, and the doodle even made the front cover of the newly revised Theory Of 5.

So if you haven’t seen the book, definitely check it out. There’s going to be links down below so check it out.


Make Time For Yourself

In this video, Master Groomer Melissa Verplank talks about the importance of taking time for yourself to maintain and improve your performance. From focus to stress-reduction, she discusses six ways that time off the job makes you better on the job.

Want more tips to supercharge your grooming business? Join www.Learn2Groom.com and access hundreds of videos on any device. Use code LUCKYDOG to get 50% Off your first month!

Need to train staff, or looking to become a professional dog groomer? Check out Paragon’s Distance Learning Program for a curriculum built on Melissa’s award-winning material, and delivered by top industry professionals. Use code LUCKYDOG to get $100 off tuition.

Transcript
Melissa V: Hi guys, Melissa here. I’ve just come back from an amazing vacation, and I want to talk to you guys a little bit about that. Not necessarily my vacation, but do you take a vacation? Vacations are so important to your overall wellbeing, they are almost to me as important as a well-balanced diet and getting exercise. I want to kind of talk to you about that.

You don’t necessarily need to take a wild, exotic, expensive vacation to get the benefits of it. Some of the best vacations, and I’ve done a lot of these myself, is stay at home vacations where you don’t necessarily go anywhere but you do different things, you plan it out. That’s the key to any vacation is that you want to plan it out so that everything goes the way that it should, and you’re going to get a break from your everyday routine because that’s what makes a vacation really wonderful and special, is that you’re taking a break from your routine.

What are some of the benefits? Why should you stop? The daily grind? Why should you really invest in yourself, and why should you invest in that downtime? Here are some six different things that I really see when I take time for myself, what it helps me achieve. Number one, it really helps minimize stress. Stress, as everybody has it, it doesn’t matter where you’re at, what stage of life, what stage of your business you’re in, I think everybody today has to manage stress and to do it well. Vacations can really help that.

Focus. I get so distracted when I get overloaded with too much work. To take a break from that allows me to maintain that focus and it makes me a lot happier when I come back. My team is going to notice that I come back with a totally different attitude. I’m just a much better person to be around than somebody who’s just having to deal with the daily grind.

Years ago, it was not uncommon for me to put in 60 plus hours a week, I mean that was just, that was normal operating procedure for me. When I tell you that it really makes me happier, trust me, it does make me happier. Also, I don’t get nearly as sick as often when I take time for myself. Again, it’s just giving you that time to reboot yourself and to take time to reenergize. I think a lot of illnesses brought on definitely just from your mental state of mind, and so a vacation is going to help boost that area.

If you’re in any kind of a relationship with your family, with your friends, with your partners, husbands, wives, what a great way to rekindle and to reconnect with those that we love the most, is just taking time and taking your focus off of work and spending it with those people that you really love and care about.

Finally, when you do come back from vacation, the payback sometimes can be a little challenging, it takes a lot to get back into the groove, but ultimately, you’re going to be so much more productive. I come back, I am energized, I am ready to hit the ground running. During that downtime, maybe I was doing some different things but I was still thinking about business, and I was still thinking about what I could do. When I come back I am just that much more productive and ready to hit the ground running.

I asked you guys, when was the last time that you took a vacation for yourself where you could just decompress, that you could just be, that you could take care of yourself, your heart, your mind, your physical being. I really, really encourage you to think about it and think about it for your staff too. If you’re an employer out there and asking your team to put in the same type of crazy hours that you might put in, I would rethink that.

I have gotten to be a real component of making sure that my team takes time for themselves because I really understand the value that it puts on every single team member. Think about where you want to go, what you want to do. If you don’t have a big budget, do a stay at home vacation, they can be wonderful, they can be just as energizing, and knock some things off your bucket list.

You guys, if you don’t have a bucket list of things that you’ve never tried before and you want to try, create that list. I know the last vacation that I just got back from, I had two things on my bucket list, crazy, but I’d never done them before. I had never done an airboat ride through the everglades, I was able to do that. I had never been out deep sea fishing, I was able to do that. Those are just some of the things that I was able to do that got me excited, and jazzed up, and who knows, I might have a new hobby, might be fishing, like I need another hobby.

Bottom line, take that time. I encourage you to find and schedule the downtime. It doesn’t have to be a big, long two-week vacation, it can be a day, two days, whatever amount of time that you can squeeze out of your schedule. Do it for yourself, you really, really deserve it.


The Three C’s: Calm, Cool, and Collected

How do you stay Calm, Cool and Collected when grooming dogs? It’s all in the attitude. Learning to read “dog body language” and to correct undesirable behaviors before things get out of control. Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank discusses the tips to mastering the 3Cs.

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Interested in learning to become a professional groomer but don’t live near Paragon’s Pet School? Check out our new Distance Learning Program at ParagonPetSchool.com/home-study – All the great curriculum materials and mentoring brought to YOU, wherever you are, from Melissa Verplank. Sign up with code LUCKYDOG and get $100 Off tuition.

Transcript
Melissa V: Hi guys, Melissa here again and I want to share another one of my favorite time-saving tips with you. This one is practicing the three C’s. What are the three C’s? Whenever you’re working with pets you always want to maintain being calm, cool, and collected. So when you’re working with the pets you want to maintain an attitude of aloofness with the dogs and you want to be friendly but aloof.

Melissa V: Dogs can get really jazzed up if you start talking in a high pitched type tone, so if you just minimize the amount of chatter that you have with that pet, maintain a friendly but an aloof attitude, guaranteed it’s going to go a lot further for you. You’re going to win the trust and the cooperation of that pet a lot faster.

Melissa V: You know if a pet starts to do something that you really don’t want them to do, correct an undesirable action before it gets out of control. To me, one of the most overused words in a dogs language is the word no. So I always come up with a sound that means or indicates to the pet, cut it out, don’t be doing that. A lot of times it’s just something sharp and quick, a sound sometimes not necessarily a word.

Melissa V: I want to make sure that I am going to use that sound early on before an action becomes totally out of control. So, be aloof, be friendly but aloof, stop an undesirable action before it goes out of control and remember that there is absolutely no place for frustration or anger when you’re working with animals. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a cat, a dog, whether you’re, I work with horses a lot and we use the same thing. There’s just absolutely no place for frustration or anger with a horse either.

Melissa V: So it’s going to carry through with all animals and I’m sure it’s going to carry through with kids too, now I don’t have kids but you get what I’m saying there. So, always, always maintain the three C’s when you’re working with animals, calm, cool, and collected. Don’t try to be a hero, not every animal that comes into our salon is groom able. You always want to maintain safety for those pets, and so you know, sometimes you got turn something away. So don’t try to be a hero, maintain those three C’s at all times and your day is going to go a whole lot smoother for you.


Staffing to Scale Your Business

Are you trying to grow your grooming business? Master Groomer Melissa Verplank shares her tips for selecting the right team members to scale your business. She also discusses staff turnover and positive ways to think about and manage the lifecycle of relationships with team members.

Want to train staff to grow your business? Check out our Distance Learning Program and leverage Melissa’s outstanding educational curriculum.

Want to help your staff get a specific breed groom just right? Check out www.Learn2GroomDogs.com, where members have more than 600 grooming tutorials at their fingertips.

Transcript
Melissa: Hi guys, Melissa here, and I want to talk to you about staff. Staff is a necessary situation if you want to grow and scale your business. And over the years, I have had absolutely amazing staff members, staff members that I never wanted to see them leave. And I have also had really, really challenging staff members. And so if you are looking to scale your business, to grow your business because you’re successful, and with success comes more opportunities, but also more challenges. And number one, you’ve got to … if you want to scale your business, you’ve got to find those staff members, but then once you find them, you’ve got to cultivate them. And over the years what I have honestly learned is one of the easiest ways when we’re dealing with grooming staff members is training them myself. And that’s really the entire reason why I started the Paragon School of Pet Grooming was because I couldn’t find enough groomers to support my mobile grooming business. I had six vans out on the road, and it was … there was times that I would let vans sit for a year, idle, and no one was in them because I couldn’t staff them.

Melissa: So this is going back into the 80s, and it was the number one problem back when I was first starting my business, and it continues to be really the number one problem today, is finding qualified staff members to join your team. And before I started the Paragon School of Pet Grooming, I ultimately had opened a salon based operation and I used that as a training center for my fleet of mobile vans, and that was really the only way that I could find team members that could groom up to the caliber that I needed them to groom to.

Melissa: So as you’re growing your business, when you’re looking for people, what I say to folks now is look for somebody with that attitude that you know that they have a great work ethic. They smile, they take direction well, those are the types of folks that are moldable, and you’re going to be able to work together with some systems, get the systems in place, and you’re going to have people that mirror what you’re thinking and how you want to treat the customers. But don’t totally put your heart and soul into them, because just when you think everything is going really well, they’re going to up and they’re going to leave, and that’s just the nature of the beast.

Melissa: And so I would never be angry with somebody as long as they were honest with me, told me up front what they wanted to do, what their dreams, what their aspirations were, and I want to help them get there. And if they want to stay with me for seven, 10, 15 years, great, and I’ve had staff members do that and stay with me for that long. But I’ve also had staff members that have only stayed with me for a few years, and I was a little bit … just, you know, like a stepping stone for them. And as long as they were honest with me, I would help them however I could, because we all have dreams, we all have things that we want to do. But what I want each and every one of you to think about, whether you be the owner of the salon, or whether you be the employee, is that do the best that you can do, and be up front and be honest. If you want to move ahead in your life, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you want to open up your own salon, there’s nothing wrong with that. But be fair about it. Don’t open up three blocks, or a couple doors down from your existing salon, move into a different area and start your own business.

Melissa: But as the business owner, I also want to encourage you to always, always be looking for somebody else to come on board. And it’s not necessarily that you’re going to replace somebody, but you have got to cover your hind end. You’ve got to be able to continue to grow your business forward, to move it forward, and it’s great always to have somebody in training, always coming up the ranks so that when that day comes that somebody does leave, that it’s not as painful for you. There’s nothing worse than relying so heavily on somebody else that when a team member does leave, it’s devastating to your business.

Melissa: And so now, today, what we are always doing is we are always cross training our team members so that if somebody leaves, if somebody moves on, that somebody can step in. Will they do the job beautifully just like the former person? Maybe not, but they have already got a head start. And right now, between the different companies that I have … we’ve got probably approaching 80 employees, between Whiskers Resort, and that’s the one that has the most employees, and the educational companies. So I’ve got a pretty good sized team, and I’ve got to tell you, I have had good days, and I have had really, really bad days based on how well the leadership was going at the companies, and probably the days that were some of my darkest days probably a team member caused that, and I let that get to me. But I will also say some of the most rewarding things that I’ve ever done has been based on a team. And to be able to see dogs walk out that look amazing, to see team members get certified, or to go into the ring, or just to be able to pay their bills and not have to look over their shoulder. Those types of things make it really worthwhile and I love being an employer, because I can expand somebody’s horizons, and I can help somebody succeed.

Melissa: And so for me, having team members works really well. But I will tell you, it isn’t always glorious, it’s not always fun. But I love what we’re able to do, and I love being able to help as many dogs in our community as we do, and I love helping people expand their career. And I couldn’t do it at the scale that we do today if I didn’t have an amazing, an amazing team behind me.

Melissa: So don’t be afraid of it. But just know, you’re going to have to buckle down, and you’re going to have to do some work, and if you are one of those team members, I certainly hope your boss, your employee is holding you accountable to a higher level.


Melissa Verplank Receives Pet Age’s 2019 Women of Influence Award!

Paragon Pet School is very pleased to announce that our Founder & CEO Melissa Verplank was named a recipient of the Pet Age 2019 Women of Influence Award! Now in its fifth year, the Women of Influence Awards are given by the publication to 30 deserving leaders in the pet industry.

Congratulations to the 2019 Women of Influence Award Recipients

Citing the importance of celebrating the accomplishments of females who have made a notable impact on the field in which they work, Pet Age is honoring 30 “ambitious, hardworking females who are influential in the pet industry” with its Women of Influence Award in 2019.
Read the rest of this entry »


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:

Transcript
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.


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


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