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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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Want to advance your training? Check out our advanced levels at Paragon Pet School’s Distance Learning Program. Use Code LUCKYDOG to get $100 off tuition!

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.


10 Things That Take Zero Talent but Earn 100 Percent Respect

Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank discusses the power of 10 simple best business practices that will command client respect and build your business.

Want more business inspiration to fuel your grooming salon? Check out these articles. MelissaVerplank.com/blog/?s=tips+on+building+repeat+clients&submit=Search

If you’ve mastered the art and want to bone up on your own technical skills, check out Learn2GroomDogs.com

Want to train your staff to perform at the highest skill level? Check out Paragon’s Distance Education program for Grooming Salons. ParagonPetSchool.com/product/studio-enrollment-bundle/

Transcript
Melissa: Hi Guys, Melissa here, and I want to talk to you about something, whether you be an employer or whether you are an employee, it’s not gonna matter, and this is something that doesn’t take any money whatsoever. Totally zero. It’s 10 things, and a lot of you have probably seen this list before, but it’s 10 things that require zero talent, zero money, but it is going to give you 100% respect.

Melissa: And so I just wanted to talk a little bit about these 10 different items and how it applies to what we do as professional pet groomers. The first thing, and this is just such a huge one for me, but being to work on time. Being done with your dog when you tell your customer, when you promised it, and anytime that you can’t uphold that, whether you’re running late to work or whether you’re running behind on a dog, let either your employer know or let your customer know that things might have changed a little bit.

Melissa: If you just can’t get up in the morning because you just can’t get up, change something, get up earlier, see if maybe your employer is willing to have you start on a later time during the day versus first thing in the morning. When I had all of my mobile stylist, I had early birds and I had folks that were just couldn’t get up in the morning, and we customized their schedule for them. I had some of my drivers, they were arriving to base at 6:30 in the morning, sometimes even earlier than that.

Melissa: Sometimes they were on their client’s doorstep at 6:00 AM, but they were also done and they were out at the beach by 2:00 in the afternoon. I had other stylists that were rolling in maybe at 10 o’clock and that was fine. As long as we knew, but whatever the time you set be on time. Number two, have a great work ethic. A work ethic will get you so far and it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, whether you are an employer or an employee, whether you are a coach on some type of a team, whatever it is, wherever it is in your life, a strong work ethic will always earn you respect.

Melissa: The next one would be effort, and effort and work ethic to me go hand in hand. When we’re dealing with brand new students, they’re not going to get it perfect straight out the gate. One of the best teachers is experience, and making mistakes is a fabulous way to learn as long as you can minimize the mistakes and hopefully most mistakes are correctable with a little bit of adjustment, but if somebody comes in with a strong work ethic and effort, oh my gosh, they are going to go so far with me and in their life. Guarantee that is going to get them somewhere in their life.

Melissa: The next thing is body language. If you can smile, the smile totally comes right through, whether you’re working on a dog, whether you’re talking on the phone, whether you’re dealing with a customer, it doesn’t matter, whether you’re dealing with your staff members or the staff members dealing with anybody else on the team. If you’re sitting there going, “Nope, I don’t want to do it,” or “Gosh, I’ve never done it, but let me try it.”

Melissa: There’s different way that that body language came through where one person was workable and the other wasn’t, and body language and energy and positive energy. There’s that phrase out there that says, “Is your attitude contagious?” “Is it worth catching?” And I love that image where there’s a whole bunch of matches lined up and there’s one match and they’re getting ready to ignite just that whole row.

Melissa: Energy is absolutely fabulous. And dogs also, they read energy. So if you come into the salon and you’re in a grumpy, nasty mood and your body language is not positive, you just don’t want to work. You don’t want to be there, you don’t want to put forth the effort. Well, you know what, your day is going to get even worse because that energy is transferred right over to those dogs. And so it’s really important to have positive energy and have that great attitude coming in.

Melissa: Not only is your day going to go smoother, but every coworker that you have, their day is going to go smoother and the dogs are gonna respond in a much more favorable way when you’ve got that positive attitude, the positive energy coming into work, and you’re going to get that respect from your coworkers and your customers and also from the dogs. Passion is right in there.

Melissa: I still remember my high school teacher, and I was definitely not the best student. I mean if I was pulling a C average, I was lucky and if it was Spanish, it was something else altogether. But I had a counselor at this little tiny high school that I went to in Colorado, and I’m still in touch with her today and she believed in me so much and she said, “Melissa, when you find what you’re passionate about, nobody is going to be able to stop you.”

Melissa: And so passion is critical. If you want to succeed in your job and in your life, you’ve got to be passionate about what you’re dealing with. And again, it’s just gonna make your life be a lot more fun, a lot more enjoyable. Be coachable. If I sat there and said, “Nope, I know it all. I don’t need to learn anything,” I’m just not gonna get anywhere. And that’s one of the things with this particular industry, with professional pet grooming, you can never know it all. So always stay open, always stay coachable, always think about what you can learn more and be humble at the same time.

Melissa: That’s not on the list, but humble to me is be coachable and be humble and that will gain you respect, hands down, over and over again. Another thing is do something extra, go a little bit more. No one is going to criticize you for doing something a little bit up and beyond what they expected, and that’s what makes people talk about you.

Melissa: With a service space business, if you want to really go far, you want to be able to do something extra to get people talking about you because people don’t talk about boring services, they talk about things that excite them and referrals are the number one way that grooming salons grow. And so you want to do something a little bit extra to get those customers talking. They will love you for it and you will earn the respect.

Melissa: And the last thing on the list of 10 is be prepared. Be prepared for whatever you’re going to be dealing with. If you come skidding into work at the last minute, you’re running late and your workstation isn’t set up. If your stuff isn’t ready to go, you’re not prepared for your day, your day is going to tumble in a downward fashion pretty quickly. And so it really pulls all of the 10 together, is be prepared.

Melissa: If you do these 10 things, you are going to earn the respect of your employer, of your clients, of your boss, all the way around you’re going to earn respect and you will also have respect for yourself. And so I really encourage you to think about these items that absolutely cost zero intake, zero talent to just do.


Selling a Service Equals Selling a Relationship

In this video, Master Groomer and savvy entrepreneur Melissa Verplank discusses the importance of building a trusting relationship with your clientele as the foundation of a thriving salon.

Want more tips on increasing your client retention rate? Check out another article on this topic here.

Would you like to train new staff with Melissa’s curriculum? Check out Paragon’s Salon Distance Learning packages here.

Want access to hundreds of grooming business and technique videos for busy professionals? Visit Learn2GroomDogs.com

Transcript
Melissa: Hi guys. Melissa here, and today I want to talk to you about what we do every single day, and that’s grooming. And grooming is a service based business, and it’s a little bit different than if you were able to pick up a widget and test it and look at it and try it out, and then make the decision whether you’re going to buy it or not. When we are grooming dogs, we’re selling a service. And a client isn’t going to know whether they like that service or not, most of the time until after you have finished. And so people that are calling us as a professional pet groomer, they are assuming that we’re talented, that we’re skilled, that we’re trained.

Melissa: It’s the same thing if you need to hire an attorney. Unless you have a great referral, you don’t know whether you’re hiring the best attorney for your particular situation. You don’t know when you go to the doctor whether you truly have the best doctor for the situation, whether you’re getting the correct diagnosis for what is ailing you. Taxes, shoot. How do you pick somebody to do your taxes? And if you have a complicated return, how do you know whether somebody is really doing a good job for you? You don’t. You don’t know it until after the fact. And that’s the same thing with dog grooming.

Melissa: Our customers don’t know whether they’re going to get an excellent grooming, or they’re not, until after it is done. But you know the one thing that customers can really tell, and you think about the services that you go to, they can tell whether they feel valued, whether they feel like it’s a good relationship. You just get that gut feeling that you like that person. And clients can tell when phone calls are returned, when they’re treated politely, when their pets are being treated with compassion, they can tell that.

Melissa: And so bottom line, when you’re selling services, you’re basically dealing with a popularity competition. And the winners of that competition are the ones that make those customers feel valued. That is absolutely key with what you’re dealing with. Just remember when clients and prospective clients call to see what you offer, they are going to assume that you know what you’re doing, that you know how to trim their dog the way that they think it should be trimmed. And so it’s really important that you get at least to that first base, and you’re being able to communicate with that customer and make them feel amazing.

Melissa: And you know through years and years of experience, I have found the stylists that have full books sometimes aren’t the most talented stylist. But they are the groomers and the stylists that make that customer feel important. They are the ones that make up with that dog, and that client feels comfortable leaving their beloved little fluffy with you for the day. And so that’s really, really critical, is make that customer feel valued, feel important, and build that trust so that customer keeps coming back to you over and over again.


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


How to Handle Tardy and No-Show Clients

Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy rule for solving the problems of tardy or no-show clients. The good news is that you have lots of options to help deal with it. Depending on how busy you are, cancellations can either be a blessing or a curse. In either case, if you have a client who is chronically dismissive or disrespectful of your time, you need to be proactive and correct the problem.

Our kennel, Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa, experienced 68 reservation cancellations over the 4th of July holiday. During the summer months, Whiskers runs at over 100% occupancy rate with its 180 rooms. During peak holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Spring Break, Whiskers charges a $50 deposit for all reservations. This deposit is nonrefundable if the cancellation takes place two weeks prior to their check-in date. In the past, the deposit has not been charged for Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Labor Day. That will be changing.

For years we’ve tracked grooming appointment cancellations at The Paragon School of Pet Grooming.  Despite our continual efforts to knock the rate down, its remains a persistent 10%.

late

In the pet grooming industry, time is money. Clients who are chronically tardy or don’t show up for their appointments create havoc for both your schedule and your pocketbook.

It’s frustrating.

It’s disrespectful.

It’s rude.

(However, if you are overbooked, it can also be a blessing.)

There is no perfect solution for this problem. Everyone has a slightly different take on this situation. Some salons run on a very tight schedule while others are more relaxed. And let’s face it, there are times when the client has a legitimate excuse. So, what do you do?

8 Ways to deal with Tardy and No-show Clients.

  1. Call or text to confirm the day ahead. Sometimes clients just need is a gentle reminder to avoid a scheduling conflict.
  2. Breathe. For some pet stylists, having a cancellation is not a big deal. It doesn’t happen that often. The clients are well-trained and respectful of their appointments and time. In some cases, it might even be a relief.
  3. Overbook. Service businesses do this all the time to ensure they are full. The key here is to have a variety of pets on the books. If there are a few easy jobs sprinkled between the more difficult ones, you will get through your day, even if your cancellation rate is below the 10% mark.
  4. If they are 10 or 15 minutes late – call them. If they can make it into the salon within a few minutes, keep the appointment. It’s easier than trying to refill it – unless you don’t want to! If you opt not to honor their appointment, rebook them for another time. Don’t wait 30 or more minutes and then explode when they walk in the door expecting to keep their appointment. It’s better to make the call right away and know what your next step should be. This method offers you more control over the situation. With some clients, you need to personally point out why it’s important for you and/or your team to have set appointment times. This can be done in a friendly – yet firm – professional manner. This tactic also works well with non-chronic cancellations.
  5. Have a 3 Strike Rule. Some people are just forgetful. Others are just plain disrespectful. Others are downright rude. If the client will not respect your time, you don’t have to continue to put up with it. Occasionally, there are solid reasons why someone misses an appointment. Life happens. The 3 Strike Rule covers clients who are chronically late or don’t show up for their appointments. If you’re going to set up a 3 Strike Rule, what are the consequences? Do you refuse to groom the dog in the future? Charge a cancellation fee? Do you have a client prepay a nonrefundable amount for the scheduled next appointment? If you make a rule, there must be consequences. Make a policy, then consistently stick with it.
  6. If the client cancels, fails to show up, or is tardy beyond being able to groom them at their appointed time, reschedule them. Don’t do them a favor by squeezing them in the next day or two. Push them out at least two weeks. I’ve known many stylists that are so busy they have NO flexibility left in their schedules. If a client misses today’s appointment they can’t get another one until their next pre-scheduled appointment. This works exceptionally well for stylists that are booked out weeks, months, or even a year in advance. It can be a hard lesson for the client but it is generally very effective. Rarely do they miss another appointment.
  7. For clients who are chronically tardy or don’t show up, charge a late or no-show fee. You won’t always get it, but if they book another appointment, you can tack it on to their next grooming fee. You could also consider raising their base price to include an inconvenience fee.
  8. If you have a client who simply cannot adhere to a schedule or does not respect your time, have them prepay prior to their grooming appointment. This should be a nonrefundable amount. After all, your time is valuable and it’s worth money. If they cancel, you can’t get your time back nor the money you would have earned if they had kept their appointment.

late-payment-excusesAre there exceptions to your rules? Absolutely.

If you don’t already track how many cancellations you have each day and each week – start tracking it. Find out what your cancellation average is per day. Once you know the number, you can be proactive in correcting the problem.

Another way to look at it is from a dollar standpoint. At Paragon, our average cancellation rate is 10%. If you apply the 10% rate to your situation and you do 20 dogs a day at $50, that starts to add up! That translates into losing two dogs or $100 every day! Times that by five days a week and you’re at $500 of lost revenue. To me, it’s worth taking the time to simply call and remind people of their upcoming appointment the day before!

We are in the business of building positive relationships with our customers, both the two-legged and four-legged variety. Your personality and the type of relationship with your clients dictates how firmly you adhere to the demands on your time. Remember, these customers not only affect you and your time, they ultimately affect your schedule and your other clients. You need to be warm, caring, and maintain your professionalism.

Just because you are warm and caring does not mean you can’t set rules and boundaries. Remember, you can still provide great customer service and have a mutually respectful relationship that benefits both you and your client.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_white How do you deal with this issue? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us what works for you.


The Art of Giving Great Service – The Zingerman Way

bookAbout 6 years ago I read a great book while sailing on my dad’s boat. It was Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 1: Building a Great Business.  At one point, my dad picked up the book. He read a few paragraphs I had highlighted when I went below. When I returned a few minutes later, he said, “Good book. They know what they are talking about.” Wow. Coming from my dad, that meant a lot.

Zingerman’s is an institution in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Hailed by Inc. Magazine as The coolest small company in America,” the original business was founded in 1982 with Zingerman’s Delicatessen. Since then, Zingerman’s has expanded to 11 food-related business, 724 staff members, and sales of over $62 million.

Service is a cornerstone of Zingerman’s success. Zingerman’s has earned its reputation for great service by intentionally creating a culture that nurtures amazing service. They teach every one of their team members system “recipes” which are at the heart of their extraordinary service.

I was so impressed with the book, I ordered copies for all my team leaders!

At Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa, we really rolled up our sleeves. We took the summer to read the entire book together. Once a week we met to review, strategize, and implement what we learned from the pages.

When we started Zingerman’s training in 2011, we were earning about $655,000 in annual gross sales between overnight lodging, daycare, and grooming. Last year we grossed just short of $2.25 million. And the real kicker – we spent virtually nothing on advertising! Our growth has been fueled by stellar customer service from an amazing team of enthusiastic, pet-loving staff.

I know the Zingerman’s training isn’t totally responsible for the growth. However, I’d like to think it helped us formulate a positive culture for our Whiskers team.

Recently, we learned ZingTrain was coming to Grand Rapids for a half day of service training. We could not sign up fast enough. We had 13 team members there from all facets of my companies taking up two corporate tables. We all walked away pumped up and energized! Some of what we learned was a refresher for some of us – for others is was all new. Plus, it was refreshing to learn new service ideas the Zingerman team had formulated since we read the book. The concepts are all easy to implement, too.

I’d like to share a few of those with you.

Zingerman’s 3 Steps to Great Service

zingerman#1. Figure out what the customer wants.

  • Ask questions. Listen to what they really want. Give choices. Repeat questions back to the customer for clarity and understanding.
  • 10/4 Rule. When you get within 10 feet of either a customer or a coworker– make eye contact and smile. Once you get within 4 feet of a customer or coworker, verbally exchange a positive comment. (I’m not talking about those that you work with side-by-side all day long – however a room full of smiles and positive interaction is energizing).
  • Spend as much time as necessary to positively impact the customer. For repeat customers, it might be a quick exchange. For new customers, it’s going to take longer to help build a relationship, form a bond, and build trust.

#2. Get it – or do it – for them…

  • Let people know realistic deadlines, cost estimates, and realistic outcomes. Be specific. Under promise and over deliver.
  • Always say please and thank you. Avoid industry jargon.
  • You want the customer to leave feeling like the interaction with you was the best part of their day.

#3. Go the extra mile.

  • Do something the client didn’t ask for and didn’t expect. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It doesn’t have to be costly. Even simple things can delight and pleasantly surprise your customers.

Within this framework, employees use their own best judgment about how to serve each individual customer.

If you’ve never heard of Zingerman’s or ZingTrain, I encourage you to look it up. If you want to dig in deep, grab the book and apply its principles. If you need a quick pick me up, participate in one of the mini sessions like we did today. Their systems approach is applicable to businesses of varying industries, organizational structure, and size. They are committed to helping others succeed.

You can learn more about their training programs at www.zingtrain.com. You can get the book at the best price by ordering directly from Zingerman’s www.zingtrain.com/building-a-great-business

My entire team left energized and ready to implement many ideas immediately. We were all impacted by the training we received. Hats off to the Zingerman team of Elnian Gilbert and Tabatha Mason and to the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce for sponsoring the program!

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat did you think about these ideas? What do you do that works great for your team? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.


Top Five Reasons I Don’t Allow Blue Jeans at Work

jeansI know I’m going to ruffle a few feathers with this blog. But… my blog – my opinions. It’s ok if you don’t agree with me, but this is how I feel.

Call me old-fashioned. Call me a stick in the mud. Call me conservative. All of them are true.

When it comes to presenting a professional image appealing to our service-based clientele, I want simplicity. I want neat. I want clean.

Why?

Professional pet groomers have an image problem. As a whole, we are not seen as “true” professionals. We are not respected. Professional pet grooming is not commonly viewed as a credible profession. My father wasn’t thrilled about my early career move back when I was twenty. (He’s OK with it now!) What about your dad?

Unfortunately, this image problem is often well deserved. We are our own worst enemies. If we want to be true professionals, we need to look and act the part. Not just in how we present ourselves, but how we present our businesses, as well. Are we personally presenting a neat, tidy, and clean appearance? What about our salons and mobile vans?

If we can’t groom ourselves, how do we ever expect our clientele to view us as educated professionals? How do we instantly gain their trust? How do we build a long-term relationship based on respect?

None of this will happen if we don’t take pride in ourselves and our workplace.

Not allowing my team to wear blue jeans at work is my first line of defense.

We have less than 30 seconds to make a first impression. When a new client walks in the door, the impact is almost instant. What do they see? What do they smell? And what do they hear?

I’m not here to argue some people can rock it in a pair of well-fitted blue jeans. The problem is – most of us can’t. When I’m working with a large team of people, it’s much easier to require a basic dress code.

Dress codes don’t have to be complicated. They go a long way to set the first stages of creating a positive first impression.

006b14ed7c8bcb88d198fb55ef140b6c_-dress-for-success-and-dress-for-success-clipart_1602-16035 Reasons Why A Dress Code is Good For Business

  1. A dress code creates uniformity. Keep it simple. Matching attire goes a long way to create a positive impact on clientele. Black, khaki, or even white slacks, capris or longer shorts look professional, especially when teamed up with coordinating business shirts or jackets. Some pet service businesses find matching medical scrubs a simple way to unify their team. If you’re dealing with dog hair all day, matching hair-repelling garments make it simple to look stylish. Clients instantly know who is a staff member.
  2. It’s controllable. With a well-written dress code, it’s easy to get a consistent look within your entire team. Plus, it’s easy to enforce it.
  3. It minimizes risk. Dealing with dogs all day presents risks. You need to be stable on your feet and be able to stand for hours. Sturdy footwear is a must. Hooped jewelry poses a health threat to the wearer when handling dogs.
  4. It builds trust. Having a clean, crisp, and simple – but polished – dress code in place instantly builds credibility with clients. Trust is at the heart of all successful service based business, bringing clients back on a regular basis.
  5. It simplifies life in general. Today, we all have hundreds of decisions to make. By establishing clear boundaries with a dress code, you simplify your team’s daily decision-making process. By giving them direction on what to wear to work, they clearly understand what type of impression the company puts out to its clients and potential customers.

Some employers struggle with employees who believe they have the right to dress and groom in a way that represents their personality. This is true – outside of the employer’s business. However, businesses have rights to establish a dress code that aligns with their company and their target market. While individuals have a right to express themselves, so too do businesses. The way your employees dress sends intended or unintended messages to your clientele.

Suitable attire, along with basic politeness, cleanliness, and knowledge are a few of the most common threads within professionalism. Torn, sloppy, or ill-fitting blue jeans, in my opinion, do not convey the type of professional image I want to present to the community.

It’s human nature to form instant options of others. Personal presentation affects the perception clients have of you, your business, and your team. It is important to maintain a dress code which creates a positive first impression.

Never forget, the point of a dress code and professional conduct, at all levels, is to make others comfortable, including your clients. Its implementation ensures the instant impression a business is credible, trustworthy, and reliable.

Happy trimming,

~Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_white

 

P.S.  I know this is a controversial topic.  Let’s talk about it.  I want to hear what you think.  Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell me your thoughts.


Educational Events: Should You Send Your Team?

I recently received a question about taking staff members to educational events. As most of you know, I am a huge advocate of continuing professional development. Getting out to trade shows and other events is a great way to learn as well as re-energize your team.

 “I have a question about taking my employees to trade shows and seminars. I have never taken an employee to a conference before. My business has grown. I am seeing the need and benefit of having my employees go to classes instead of just me going and me coming back, sharing all I learned. (Which is hardly possible!)

I am wondering:

  • What is reasonable, as far as compensation for my employees?
  • Do I pay them their hourly rate for giving up their time and “working” all weekend?
  • Do I pay for all expenses…3 meals, hotel, classes, etc.

This is new territory for me and I need some experienced advice.”

-Debbie L., North Carolina

professional-developmentWhen you have a team that values education and training, the possibilities are endless!  Their excitement, dedication, and passion can propel their careers to uncharted heights and help your business thrive.  Encouraging that eagerness to try new techniques and test new tools and products has fulfilling personal payoffs that are also great for your salon.  If you have a team like this, investing is their education is also a solid investment in your company.

As a business owner, you must always balance risk with reward.  You are the person who must look objectively at your team and decide if they have the right attitude and drive for this financial investment.

I have always encouraged my staff to continue their education by attending trade shows and other events. The staff members who participated were dedicated to their craft and did not need a lot of guidance.  This is not always going to be the case.

About 18 years ago, I had my first major setback with a team.  We had had an exceptional year.  As a reward, I flew almost my entire team from Michigan to Intergroom for an all-expenses-paid learning experience.

About half the team did exactly what I had hoped. They presented themselves in both dress and manner as true professionals in every sense. They focused on learning and came home with lots of new knowledge and skills.

Unfortunately, the others fell far short of my expectations.  Their appearance was terrible and many of them spent way too much time in the bar or on the dance floor.  A few members of this group were even too hung over to make it to any of the classes.

By the end of the show I was more than frustrated – I was embarrassed.

These employees did not represent themselves or my business the way I had hoped.  They embarrassed their team mates.  They squandered an amazing learning opportunity – and I lost a significant financial investment in their training.

I realized changes needed to be made. I needed strong guidelines. I developed new policies and put them into place so this type of disappointment would never happen again.

Over the years, we have applied several different techniques with great success. Hopefully, a few of the ideas below with help you avoid frustrations and wasted expense.

Continuing Education Benefits

Today, we have an Education Assistance Program in place. It’s a benefit to all full-time employees. Each year we set a budget and these funds can be requested for a wide range of learning formats.

Everyone’s situation is a little different. Some employers find a set amount to work well for their entire team. Others find a sliding scale works best. Lower level team members get one amount. Key staff members and/or managers get a higher amount.  Figure out what works best for your team – and your budget. Typical amounts would range anywhere from $100 to $1000 or maybe even more, depending on your situation.

professional-development-2Formal Education Assistance

Occasionally, a staff member goes back to college. If the class or program will enhance their job performance, they may qualify to have all or part of the tuition costs covered by us. All courses must be pre-approved prior to reimbursement. Upon successfully completion, the team member submits their transcript or certificate along with their receipts for expenses. We will compensate them for the pre-approved portion of classes.

In-House Educational Training

At times, we arrange in-house training. These programs aid the overall knowledge of our pet service teams. At times, the training programs are offered to our employees for free or at a heavily discounted rate. Other times, the benefit is simply the convenience factor. They have access to leading educators right in their back yard. Attendance is highly encouraged at these events. If it is a mandatory event, the staff member will be paid to attend.

Seminars, Clinics, Trade Shows, and Grooming Competitions

teri-2Smaller seminars and clinics offer wonderful ways to learn. Typically, this type of educational event is much more intimate. It’s easy to get up close to see what the demonstrator is doing. Plus, it’s easy to ask questions throughout the entire program.

Larger trade shows are fabulous learning opportunities. At larger events, attending classes isn’t the only way to learn. Opportunities abound out on the trade room floor. There is a variety of products, services, tools, and equipment to learn about. Many of the larger vendors have platform demonstrations going on right at their booths. Sitting ringside watching the top stylist groom in the competition ring will yield plenty of educational opportunities too. Some of the best learning takes place in a more social setting while networking with fellow pet professionals.

To qualify for reimbursement, employees must seek approval before attending. The staff member needs to submit an outline of the program(s) they plan on attending and what they hope to learn from each.

Sitting down with them shortly after their return is a great way to let them share what they’ve learned. Show support and encouragement. You want to learn firsthand what they heard and saw. Ask them how they plan on applying the information. I personally give them brownie points for coming back with photos on their phones of their favorite speakers and personalities at the event.

Don’t forget, upon return of the educational event, they need to submit a written report outlining key takeaways from what they have learned at the program. If they have been pre-approved for travel expenses, they must submit a full expense report including receipts.

Keep in mind, whenever a staff member is at a work-related function, they must uphold your professional standards of conduct. If they fall short, they may not be reimbursed for the cost of the event. Having them sign an agreement outlining your expectations of professional conduct would a great idea.

Here are a few qualifying rules for our Education Assistance Program Benefit.

The Cost

There is more to it than just the upfront cost of the learning event. There are lots of hidden costs, too. Typically, there will be fees associated with:

  • travel
  • lodging
  • meals
  • wages (if the training is required)
  • lost revenue if the event takes place during a typical work day

Sometimes, it’s more cost-effective to seek out smaller events – especially when first getting a team excited about continued education. Personally, I like to test my team on smaller events closer to home. They are easier for my team to get to and less costly. FYI, some of the best educational events for my team are those I’ve hosted. (That’s another blog altogether!)

Staff members must:

  1. Advise the company prior to enrolling for any continuing educational event. Upon review of the training opportunity, the management team will decide if the course or programs qualify for the Education Assistance Program.
  2. The program must be job-oriented and offered by an approved institution, person, company, or organization.
  3. The staff member must be employed with the company for at least six (6) months (full-time).

Alternative Educational Opportunities

We offer additional funds towards approved learning opportunities. These opportunities include, but are not limited to; on-line training programs, membership based platforms, educational videos, and literature.

We encourage all staff members to stay current, informed, and self-educated as it relates to their job. Ultimately, it is their responsibility to manage and grow their career.

If a team member is seeking reimbursement for the cost of a learning opportunity, they must seek prior approval.

Depending upon the situation, either written or verbal reports will need to be submitted to the management team prior to reimbursement for the cost of the educational opportunity.

Certified Master Groomer Status

All our grooming staff members are eligible for voluntary certification testing through one of the approved programs: NDGAA, IPG, or ISCC. This is above and beyond their educational assistance program benefit. Upon successful completion of each phase, we will pay the cost associated with each level of the testing.  Membership dues are the responsibility of each employee.

What do I do if a team member shows their commitment to learning? I start looking at more involved programs for them. I’ve had a few staff members so committed to growing their careers, they blow through their allotment in one weekend. If they want to attend events beyond what I will pay for, we will always try to rearrange their work schedule to make it possible.

Continued education is at the heart of all successful grooming businesses. I love helping people grow their skills. If I have a team members committed to growing their careers, I will do what I can to point them in the right direction. Knowledge builds confidence, bolsters technical skills, and increases productivity. Win. Win. Win.

If you are building a team committed to quality and success, you have decisions to make. What is the best way to grow your team? It will be up to you to weigh out those costs and to determine how they will benefit your business.

Happy trimming!
~Melissa
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8 Ways to Turn Setbacks into Success

I love setting goals. For me, goal setting leads to exciting challenges, personal development, and rewarding achievements. That is the fun part. Unfortunately, there is another side of the goal setting coin:

Setbacks.

What is a setback?

A setback is typically an event that hinders your forward progress. Maybe you had a staff member quit without notice. You lost a large account. A pet was injured in your care. Some type of government regulation has forced you to proceed differently. I have personally experienced every one of these setbacks – and then some!

Everyone responds to setbacks differently. If you are the leader, it’s easy to lead a team of people when everything is going well. A true test of leadership will be challenged when things are not going as well. Of course, setbacks pop up at the least opportune times. It’s the nature of the beast. If you are a business owner, this will happen on a regular basis to you and your team.

Over the years I have had my fair share of setbacks and adversity. Sometimes they were small. Sometimes they were massive. Sometimes even I did not believe we could overcome them.

As I work through each setback, I go through a series of emotions. It always starts out with disbelief. Anger. Despair. As I come to terms with the setback, the next stage of emotional triggers take place. Acceptance. Hope. Planning. And finally, a new positive path to follow.

I will not lie to you – it is not easy to deal with setbacks. They are emotionally draining, frustrating, and taxing. It is not uncommon to feel fear, experience doubt, or to feel hopeless. Here’s the good news: there are specific skills, mindsets, and actions that can help you turn a setback into success.

Facing setbacks can be a leadership building experience. Each time we have to deal with difficulties, we gain new knowledge and new skills to deal with a situation on a personal and professional level. Being tested in this manner is how inexperienced leaders become great leaders. It’s always an opportunity to realize leadership potential in yourself or your team.

Here are the steps that I follow whenever I am faced with a setback. I wish I could say I have only had to use these 8 tactics a few times. However, as a longtime business owner, I have gotten pretty experienced in using these skills to get through many challenging situations.

As business owners or team leaders, we have special responsibilities especially during difficult times. People will look to us to see how they should react to the situation. To find out what they should do. They’ll expect us to have some ideas and guide them through what might be a very frightening period.

If you have the ability to approach setbacks as opportunities for growth, you can stabilize your organization as well as moving forward. Even if you make mistakes, the experience can lead to a greater understanding of your situation and your work. It can advance your team or business to a new level. Remember, setbacks are a fabulous learning tool when handled effectively. It is important as you work through the solutions to always keep the big picture in mind and never give up.

Setbacks are generally a one-time occurrence. They may be serious, but they are not ongoing. When dealing with setbacks, keep an open mind. Know what your options are and act swiftly. If you stay focused, stay calm, and deliver your message with clarity, you can turn almost any setback – no matter how difficult – into a success.

We know setbacks happen to everyone. Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us what happened and how you conquered YOUR setback!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa


How to Avoid Stress & Burnout

Professional stress and burnout is the number one thing that stops a successful career in its tracks. So how do you keep it from happening? How do you keep your job fresh? Fun? Rewarding?

Here are a few of my top suggestions.

Difficult Dogs

Dealing with difficult dogs or cats is one of the biggest challenges we face every day. You know the feeling in your gut when you see them on your appointment book. Those feelings of dread, anger, and sometimes fear – those negative emotions that get associated with one pet or client. You begin fretting about them right away, don’t you?

I don’t know many people who enjoy dealing with an uncooperative pet. One of the easiest ways to minimize your stress level is to simply eliminate them from your schedule.

There are plenty of nice, well-behaved dogs in the world to groom. I strongly suggest not doing any more than you can handle confidently and safely. Your skill level should dictate how much you can comfortably take on. Typically, the more experience you have, the more challenging the pet you can safely handle. To stay safe, know your limits – and the limits of the pet entrusted to you.

Here is the rating scale I’ve used to rate a dog’s (or cat’s) personality.

#1: Perfect angel on the grooming table. We love these pets!

#2: Bouncy and wiggly. Does not respect rules and boundaries but is not mean or nasty. They are a bit of a handful to deal with on the grooming table.

#3: Will bite when provoked (tugging on mats, cleaning ears, and trimming nails). With the exception of these trigger points, the pet can tolerate the rest of the grooming process.

#4: Will bite – even the smallest thing sets this personality type off. They cannot be trusted. A well-fitted muzzle can be helpful – and many times, necessary. They require a seasoned and experienced handler/groomer to keep both the pet and the person safe.

#5: Dangerous and unpredictable. Eyes will typically glow red or green. Good candidate for veterinarian-supervised grooming with a sedative.

You should consider charging extra for handling difficult pets. They take more time to groom – and time is money. Let your fee reflect it.

Difficult owners

This one can be a little tricky. If they are just mildly annoying, deal with it professionally but don’t put any more effort into the client than needed to keep them at bay. If they are rude and nasty, most likely they are just that way all the time – that’s how they go through life. I would do a great job for them, just like with any other client, but I would not go out of my way to do anything “special.”

If they are difficult to deal with AND neglect their pooch or do not respect my time, I would charge extra for that.

Just as we rate our dogs, at times we will rate difficult owners.

I have no problem referring #4 or #5 rated pets and/or owners to another groomer who might be more successful in meeting their needs (i.e. – always fire them professionally and politely).

Lateness

Nothing is more frustrating than a client who does not respect our time! We give them a 15-minute window to arrive, either to  arrive to their scheduled appointment or to pick up their pet. If they do not arrive within that window, it counts as a strike against them. For arrivals, we have a three strike rule…

  • Strike one: we let them off with a mild warning.
  • Strike two: we remind them how much we value our time. If they can’t value it as well, they will need to look for another stylist.
  • Strike three: we fire them.

If they do not pick up their pet prior to our posted closing times, we give a few extra minutes. As soon as we know they are running late, we try to get in touch with the owner. If the owner calls and can give us a reasonable estimated pick-up time, my staff has the option of waiting for them if it’s beyond closing time. I will post a hefty late pick-up fee (in 5-minute intervals) but leave it up to the employee to charge it. If they waited, they get to keep the entire late pick up fee as long as they collect it. If we can’t reach them or have not heard from them, we’ll bed the pet down for the night. We leave a pleasant note on the door for the client. We simply state our hours and let them know we look forward to seeing them in the morning. I have heard many salons charge an overnight fee, too.

5 More Quick Suggestions

Each one of these could be a blog topic on its own. However, for right now, I’ll just toss these out there for you to ponder.

  1. Keep learning to make your career interesting while allowing you to expand your career opportunities.
  2. Take time for yourself and your family.
  3. Maintain physical health and wellness through diet and exercise.
  4. Learn to say NO when your schedule becomes overwhelming.
  5. Charge enough for your services. Avoiding living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Don’t forget the little things that made this career attractive to you in the first place – never forget WHY you followed this career path. This is a career with UNLIMITED potential for those willing to stay focused. Work hard – and never stop learning. How cool is that?

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

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