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Introduction to Paragon’s Distance Learning Program

For those who want to become a professional pet groomer, but have difficulty attending a physical grooming school, Paragon’s Distance Learning Program offers more options. In this video, Melissa Verplank shares an update on the Paragon Pet School’s Distance Learning Program. Not only has this home study program proven itself effective for training people entering the industry, but it’s also being embraced by grooming salons of all sizes too!

If you want to learn the skills necessary to become a professional pet groomer at home, or you need help training your grooming staff, check out Paragon’s Distance Learning Program. Visit ParagonPetSchool.com today and use the promo code “LUCKYDOG” and get $100 Off your tuition!


Why Become a Dog Groomer?

Is professional pet grooming the right career choice for you? It’s a field with many benefits, and Melissa shares some of the perks that resonate with many people entering the field. In this video, she shares her own experiences with what it’s like to work as a professional groomer and what can make a groomer successful.

If you’re ready to start your pet grooming career, whether full or part-time, check out Paragon Pet School’s Distance Learning Program and start learning all the skills you need from home. Get started on our Home Study Page today and use the promo code “LUCKYDOG” and get $100 Off your tuition!


Get Ready for the Westminster Dog Show

Master Groomer Melissa Verplank explains why you should save the date to watch the Westminster Dog Show, America’s oldest institution for purebred conformation. Spawned in 1877, Westminster’s all-breed show is a source of inspiration for great grooms as breeders and owners show their top dogs.

See the “stack” of the 204 eligible breeds across every group and variety as the best-in-breed and best-in-show are selected Monday, Feb. 11 and Tuesday, Feb. 12. Check out the Masters’ Agility competition starting on Saturday, Feb.9 and Sunday, Feb. 10. Visit Westminster for the full schedule to tune-in: https://www.westminsterkennelclub.org/plan-your-visit/general-info

Whether you’re just learning to groom or striving to improve your repertoire, don’t miss this chance to study top dogs!

Want to brush up on your AKC standards? Look into our advanced education opportunities at https://www.paragonpetschool.com/home-study.

Want to pick up new tips on the fly? Check out https://www.Learn2GroomDogs.com, where our library of great grooming videos can help you level-up.

Transcript
Melissa: Hi guys. Melissa here. I want to talk to you about the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. That is coming up pretty soon here. It is going to be February 11th and 12th. For us in America, this is definitely our premiere dog show. There’s a lot of really high end dog shows but what I love about this one is that it’s actually televised, and they do a really nice job with it being televised. If you’re a little bit like me, I just don’t get out to dog shows the way that I did at one point in time. Now, some of you guys, you’re dog show junkies. Hey, have at it. I’m sure not only do you watch it but more than likely, you’re immersed in it. You might even be exhibiting, which is wonderful, and I know a lot of my friends are definitely there and get really caught up with the excitement.

Melissa: For me, I would really prefer to watch it from the comfort of my living room, cuddled up on my couch. Even though I might be in the comfort of my own living room watching it, I am learning so much. Each year when the dog show is aired, I get to see the new breeds that are being introduced. There have been so many new breed introduced since even I wrote Notes from the Grooming Table, or way in the back in the day when I first got my certification, there’s been a lot of new breeds have been introduced. This is my way to stay current and up to date with what’s going on in the dog show world.

Melissa: Everything that we do in the pet grooming world, it literally transfers from the confirmation ring to our grooming salons, and so even though we’re working on every day pet dogs, and they’re not getting these high show style trims, it doesn’t matter. We are visual. If you show me a nice representation of any single breed, I can turn around with my skillset and my knowledge and transfer it into a very functional pet trim for my clients. That’s what I love to be able to do, is to be able to pull the best attributes of the dog and be able to turn it into something that the owners are going to really enjoy, and be able to live with it.

Melissa: But, you know what, I couldn’t do that if I didn’t know what it should look like. Being able to watch the Westminster Dog Club, the dog show, that is absolutely the best way for me to stay current with those trends. When we look back at it, dog styles have changed over the years. Not only are there new breeds, and a lot of the breeds aren’t necessarily new, they’re very ancient breeds, they’re just new to the United States, but when we start looking at how those haircuts have changed over the years on different breeds, it’s pretty astounding.

Melissa: Not only does the breed itself kind of change and morph into something else based on what it needs to be doing today versus what it did when it actually had a real job, but also the haircuts are also changing. When you look at Bichons from 20 years ago, it’s a very, very different haircut today than what it was back then. Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers are gonna be the same type of thing. There’s a lot of breeds that are like that. Being able to watch these top dogs being shown really gives me that edge to know what to do, or what not to do.

Melissa: There’s so many, again, with those new breeds coming in. If all of a sudden you’ve got a Pumi that a client calls and they want you to groom their Pumi, more than likely when it comes in, it might just be a shave off. But, if all of a sudden you know exactly what that breed is supposed to look like, and you know it’s got these funky cute little ears and it’s got this little wedge head, and it’s got this rustic kind of coat that is a little bit different, it’s not supposed to be blown out and straight. It’s supposed to be messy looking and curly. But, if a client calls and you don’t know visually, you can’t see what that dog is supposed to look like, you are gonna have a really hard time making that dog, or even pulling components of what that breed is supposed to look like onto your pet dog when it comes through your door.

Melissa: Again, I really encourage you to watch the show. It was one of our favorite things to do back in the day when I had a whole team of stylists, and actually a lot of our stylists still do this, is they watch the dog show either online or on TV. They talk about it. It’s just a really great way to open up communications within your own salon, and within your own team members.

Melissa: Definitely check it out. Like I said, it’s gonna be airing this year February 11th and 12th. It airs normally in the evening on TV, but you can catch it streaming online at a lot of different time points, and you can actually see a lot of the classes as well. Go to, I think it is the WestminsterKennelClub.org, and check out all of the schedule of events. You go to their website, everything is there that you need to find out what’s going on and how you can best check out the show yourself, so, enjoy.


Anatomy: The K9 Blueprint

Do you know your croup from your withers? In this video, master groomer Melissa Verplank discusses the vital role of canine anatomy knowledge in successful grooming. Great grooms flow from a solid understanding of the structure and kinetic capabilities of your subject.

Want to bone up on your canine anatomy? Check out Melissa’s definitive Notes from the Grooming Table at the Paragon Pet School bookstore: https://paragonpetschool.com/product/notes-from-the-grooming-table-second-edition/

Want to take a course? Explore your distance learning options at Paragon: https://paragonpetschool.com/home-study/

Transcript

Melissa: Hi, guys. Melissa here, and today I want to talk to you about the importance of canine anatomy and structure. This is the root or foundation of everything we do in the pet grooming world. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a pure bred dog or whether it is a mixed breed. There is going to be basic structure and basic anatomy that we all need to understand so that we can bring out the best features of the pet or possibly hide some features that may not be that desirable. And you know, when you’re looking at canine structure and canine anatomy, it’s kind of like as groomers, we are the architects of this groom.

Melissa: If you were building a home, and you didn’t have an architect that was formally and professionally trained, more than likely, that house isn’t going to be as sturdy and as strong as what it could be. And so when I look at dealing with dogs, the more you understand about canine structure, about canine anatomy, and also movement, you’re going to be able to do a better job in your everyday pet grooms just by having that knowledge in your head. So I really want you to think about how important it is, because if we don’t have an understanding of canine anatomy and structure, we, number one, aren’t going to be able to work efficiently, and with a harmonious relationship with that pet, because you just don’t understand how they’re put together. And if you don’t understand how they’re put together, then you know, we’ve got to move and manipulate these dogs all through the grooming process. And if you don’t understand what is comfortable for that pet or what’s going to hurt it, you’re going to constantly be at a disadvantage, and you’re not going to win the trust and cooperation of that pet.

Melissa: So understanding canine anatomy just from a working relationship with a pet is really, really critical. But then we’re going to take it another step further. If you don’t understand canine anatomy and canine structure, we’re not going to be able to communicate to one another. Nor are we going to be able to or are you going to be able to set patterns on a dog that’s going to accentuate their best features and detract from less desirable features. And so it’s really important that you’ve got a well-rounded education with canine structure and anatomy.

Melissa: And so when we first start out, what I want people to understand is to think about the dog in almost X-ray vision. I want you to be able to see the bones and how they lay in. I want you to understand that a hip is held in position by a ball and socket, and there’s only going to be certain ways that that hip can move. So that’s going to determine the range of motion when you’re moving that pet, how far you can lift that dog’s leg up to maybe get the sanitary area done. And depending on whether it’s a young dog or an older dog, they’re going to have a different range of motion. So you’ve got to be really, really aware of that.

Melissa: The shoulder is held together with muscles and tendons. But what type of lay back, how should that shoulder fall in on that dog? What’s the perfect structure for that particular dog? You know, every breed of dog was built to do … well, not every breed of dog, but most breeds of dogs had originally had a job to do. And depending on how they’re built will determine how efficient they are at doing that job, whether they are a digging type breed, like a lot of the terriers, and they’re going to ground. Or maybe it’s an arctic dog that was a sled dog originally. They’re going to have a different structure than the terrier is going to have. And that’s … the purebred dog is a man-made creature. And man developed it to help him do the job that it was originally intended for. So every dog is going to be a little bit different. And that’s where those breed standards are going to come in.

Melissa: They’re going to tell you, you know, if it was the perfect dog. How would it be built so that it can do its job? So again, the better you understand that, and it takes time to learn all of this. But when you first start grooming, the minimum I want you to understand is to be able to shut those eyes, shut your eyes and be able to see how those bones lay out so that you know how to move and how to work with that dog. And then the next thing you really need to understand is topographical anatomy. And that’s so we can communicate back and forth.

Melissa: If I say take your clippers from the withers and go to the croup, if you don’t know where the withers are, and you don’t know where the croup is, you’re going to have a hard time doing what I’m telling you to do. So that’s really, really important. Where is the elbow? Where’s the spring of grip? Where’s the upper thigh? Those are all terminologies that we’re going to use when we’re talking and giving direction about how to groom a particular dog. It’s also, you need to be able to get your hands on that dog and literally feel where those underlying bones are and how the muscles are going to play in, because the muscles are the key to setting the patterns.

Melissa: And if you don’t know where those muscles are and how they interrelate with the terminology and the bones, again, you’re going to have a really hard time making that dog be the absolute best it can be. So I want you to be able to tie everything together. From the foundation, you got to understand it, to what may be the finished picture should look like. If it was the perfect world or not, sometimes you’re looking at a matted dog, and you can’t be the sculptor of the fur. You’re not going to be setting patterns. But you still need to understand where those bones and muscles are going to play in, so you can handle that dog, and you can hold it so that it is safe and solid on the table, you’re not going to hurt it. All of those things are really, really critical. So it doesn’t really matter whether you’re doing a #7 All strip, or whether you are doing a contest-style trim, or you’re dealing with just an everyday pet in a low maintenance type trim. The better you understand canine anatomy and canine structure, the easier it’s going to be for you to get through that groom in the least amount of time possible while doing the best job possible.


Making the Most of a Seminar

seminarWhen you attend trade shows and clinics, preparing in advance can help you make the most of this experience.  Seminars are a great way to improve your skills and recharge your batteries.  Meeting your mentors and soaking up their knowledge is a fantastic opportunity, and if you can see and hear them in action, it maximizes the experience.  When you know what you need and what you hope to get out of the session, you can better prepare yourself to squeeze out as much as you can from your time together.

1.  Step into the session with a very open mind.

If you are young and fresh to the industry, the amount of information that you get can be intimidating.  Listen, take notes, and soak up every bit of knowledge that you can.  Sometimes that may mean suspending what you know in order to make room for something new.  Trying new techniques or ideas can be uncomfortable just because you’ve never tried it before.  Keeping an open mind enables you to break from your routine to get different results.  With time and practice, the awkwardness goes away and you become more efficient.  Remember: having more tools, techniques, and knowledge allows you to have multiple approaches to a problem.

2.  Make efficient use of the time available.

Many trainers at these sessions have limited time.  They are often rushing from one obligation to another – judging competitions, speaking in seminars, or providing hands-on clinics.  If they can, many will take the time to answer your questions.  If you know what you need to ask, it helps you make the best use of the brief time you may have together.  Be prepared – write down your questions in advance so you don’t forget something important or stumble over your words.  Being ready to participate in the learning experience helps you make the best use of the session – and the presenter will respect you for it.

3.  Don’t be nervous – plan ahead.

With so much to see and do at trade shows, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.  Break out the catalog and study the floor plan before you arrive.  Map out your plan of attack to make sure you get to everything you need to see.  Some shows have free apps you can download to help make the most out of your experience.  Know the schedule of events so you don’t miss that speaker you’ve been hoping to see.  Sometimes it’s good to go to shows like this with a friend – divide and conquer, then compare notes later.

As your knowledge and skills advance, the clinics won’t be as daunting. They will become a great way for you to fine-tune your skills.  You can begin to network and exchange thoughts with others in the industry who can provide insight when you need it.  Plus, these types of functions are a great way to invigorate your career.

These principles remain valid for many forms of advanced learning in the pet grooming industry. Maybe you don’t have the opportunity to do a hands-on training session. There is a wealth of information to learn from these all-star pet stylists. You might be in the audience at a trade show, pet grooming competition or watching a grooming video lesson featuring one of these top stylists. The better you can execute the core skills with your everyday grooming, the easier it will be to successfully transfer their lessons to your own grooming table.

If you are not as accomplished as these award-winning and highly successful pet groomers are – take note. You can learn a lot from their well-developed skills. Learning new skills, tips, and tricks make grooming pets all that more fun!

I’ll be at the Groom Expo September 14-17, 2017.  If you’d like to download the handout for my lecture, Ruff Times in Your Salon? The 4-Rs for a Full Appointment Book, click here.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhy do you attend trade shows? How do you make sure you get your money’s worth? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.

 


The Secret to Handling Challenging Dogs

Dollarphotoclub_57676672In my years of teaching new pet groomers, I’ve seen hundreds of dogs take advantage of a new students. Dogs pull, squirm, whine, snarl… and bite. I’ve seen many students frustrated to the point of tears.

Then a miracle happens.

An instructor will walk over to the pet and gently take over for the student. Suddenly, this challenging pet turns into a perfect angel. The students’ jaw drops. A moment in stunned silence passes before the student exclaims, “How did you do that?!” The answer is simple:

Energy.

Dogs have keen senses and an uncanny ability to pick up on our energy and our confidence. They read us clearly even when we don’t think we are connecting to them. In the example above, the dog picked up on the instructor’s energy without a word having to be said.

Dogs are primarily nonverbal communicators. They have a language of their own. They are very clear in the messages that they give us. It is up to us to be able to interpret that language.

The #1 rule when working with pets is to remember the three C’s. As a professional you must remain: Calm, Cool, and Collected in ALL circumstances. The second you step out of this energy mode, the dog pet will know it.

Dogs are hardwired to think like dogs. They need a pack leader. If you do not exude the three C’s, dog language translates that to “poor leader.” The pet will not follow you. It will not cooperate with you.

So how do you gain the upper edge in this situation? Believe it or not, it all starts with your BREATHING.

I know it sounds far-fetched. How could something we do without conscious thought help in this situation?

To create a calm, cool, and collected energy, you need to be cool, calm, and collected. Deep breathing allows you body to channel that calm and focus. To make it happen, your breaths need to be deep and saturating. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Draw in the air and feel it fill your lungs. Now exhale slowly through your mouth. The most important part of deep breathing is to regulate your breaths. Three to four seconds in. Three to four seconds out.

Try it. You will feel the oxygen saturating your body. Tension begins to leave your shoulders. You will start to feel more relaxed almost immediately.

Screen-Shot-2015-11-05-at-4.08.52-PMDeep breathing can release stress and provide other noticeable health benefits. You will likely feel calmer after performing deep breathing exercises, and may trade feelings of anger or fear for a focused, relaxed state of mind. Most dogs will totally gravitate to this energy in a very positive way.

I firmly believe that 98% of all dog bites are preventable by reading the animal correctly and taking the appropriate precautions to protect yourself while gaining humane control over the pet. Your hands are your livelihood. You must take utmost care not to let your hands become injured.

Every pet is an individual with different physical and emotional characteristics. Some dogs receive clear directions and boundaries at home, making them very easy to work on in a professional setting. Other pets will not have the skills necessary to be well-mannered candidates in a professional grooming setting.

The personality quirks that you’ll experience while working professionally with pets will range from dogs that are perfect angels, to dogs that are mildly annoying, to dogs that could be potentially dangerous to work on for both the handler and to the pet itself.

Whenever working with pets it is always critical to remember the 3 C’s. As a professional you must remain calm, cool, and collected in all circumstances. And don’t forget to BREATHE.

Whenever you have a dog on a table or in your grooming facility, you must use humane, respectful, and consistent training messages. The more you can learn about dog psychology and combine it with actual experience, winning the control and the respect over the dogs will become second nature.

Always remember that dogs are primarily silent communicators. Excessive talking or giving of commands is not necessary to effectively communicate with them. Much of your control can come from maintaining the Three C’s – Always remain Calm, Cool, and Collected while working with any animal.

Any time you feel you are losing control of the three C’s, it’s time to step away from the grooming table and take a break. Breathe. Only when you can totally regain your composure is it time to step back and begin your work again.

There are many videos on Pet Handling in the Learn2GroomDogs library. Also my blog on Rating Dog Personalities is very helpful when determining how to rate personality and behavior in dogs.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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


Hiring for the Spring Rush

Now HiringDo you experience seasonal climate changes? If you are in the northern hemisphere, I bet you are already feeling the warm weather grooming rush. One week you are slow, then suddenly the sun comes out. The temperature begins to rise. Instantly, your phone starts to ring off the hook.

Let me ask you this.

  • Are you staffed to handle the load?
  • Are you going to be working 12 hour days, six days a week and still not get caught up?
  • Are you booked out solid for 4 weeks or more?
  • Are clients and potential customers getting frustrated or even angry because you can’t book them as quickly as they’d like?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you’re not alone. When the spring rush hits, groomers are in short supply everywhere!

Finding qualified help is the #1 problem for most business owners.

How often have you advertised for a new bather or groomer and have been able to fill the job immediately? Hardly ever, right? Even after you’ve filled the position, how often has that person been able to perform that job without any guidance or direction from you?

If yours is like most grooming salons, it’s next to impossible to hire the ready-made job applicant. It’s rare to find a person who will be everything you need, right away. Even if you do find great candidates, it’s still going to take work to bring them up to speed. To bring them in line with the way YOU do things in your business. To teach them your culture.

Finding the right people to build your team is always the most challenging part of running any business.

Training is at the heart of all great employees. Unfortunately, training takes time and effort. Both of those equate to money out the door. One of the most frustrating things for any business is to go through the training process only to have the new hire leave shortly after training has been completed. However, if you’re going to run a business that has any growth, you’re going to need to hire help.

How do you find great job candidates who will stay with you? I’m not just talking bathers, groomers, and stylists. I’m talking about anybody that would add value to your business and your team.

I wish there was a simple and clear-cut answer to this very old problem. There’s not.

The best way to get started down the hiring path is finding job candidates with potential. Here are a few things I always think about when looking at prospective job candidates.

featured-classifiedWhere to Find Them

You are going to need somebody who understands that working with dogs takes WORK. A lot of work. I look for proof that they are willing to work. Willing to commit. I scan their resume for clues.

Rural Background

I have found that some of our best employees and students come from a more rural background. Being brought up on a farm always teaches valuable work ethics.  Many times, they will have 4H in their background. Being active with horses or dogs is also a positive attribute. So is someone coming from a veterinarian clinic, animal rescue, or any professional pet-related background.

Students and Recent Graduates

Look at attendance records and GPA, not just a certificate or diploma. Check their extracurricular activities. Was s/he in band, sports, or Student Council? These things will indicate how disciplined and focused a job candidate will be. It will also tell you if that person has worked as part of a team.

Previous Job Experience

Check prior work history. Does the candidate have the experience or skills to do the job? Do they have any previous professional experience working with animals?

Here’s a list of traits that make a great new hire. Look for these behaviors during the interview and during their initial trial period.

  • They listen with intent.
  • They are confident but not arrogant.
  • They have the ability to express themselves.
  • They ask questions.
  • They are motivated to improve their current skill levels
  • The understand directions.
  • They have the ability to focus.
  • They have organizational skills.
  • They have the ability to prioritize tasks.
  • They are willing to try something new.
  • They are open and receptive to constructive criticism.

Here are a few tips when it comes to evaluating a new candidate.

  • Ask for references and call them.
  • Treat everyone with respect.
  • Look for attitude – hire based on potential.
  • Learn to trust your gut.
  • Look for a warm smile.

Once you have a new team member, it’s up to you to provide the training that will guide them. Every salon is slightly different. You want your new hire to succeed. That means you are going to have to put in some effort. They need to be clear on your rules and expectations. Ideally, these rules and expectations will be printed in an employee manual – even if it’s only a few pages!

Observe how they work. Even with the most basic tasks like answering phones or washing dogs, many new hires need to be gently coached. Even if their skill level is weak, if they have the right attitude, you will be able to train them quickly. But you must understand where they are in their current level of training. And the only way to learn that is by having them demonstrate their work.

Books and videos can be extremely helpful to the training process, as well. But don’t just assume they are reading and watching the material – and understanding it. You will still need to observe them carefully for the first few weeks, making sure the information in the books and videos is being correctly implemented.

I learned a long time ago that I prefer to cultivate my own team from scratch. That way they learned our culture. Our expectations. They came without a lot of baggage we need to change. If I was fair with them, in return, they were fair with me, staying with my team for years.

Not everybody will stick with you, long-term. That’s all right. It’s part of the hiring process. Part of running a business. You learn to work with it. Always keep your eyes open for great candidates to join your team. Once you know what to look for, the hiring process becomes a bit easier.

Learn2GroomDogs.com members – check out these links for more information:

What to look for in New Hires / How to Keep New Employees – with Melissa Verplank and Judy Hudson

Slope Side Chats: What Do You Look for In a New Hire? – with Melissa Verplank, Kathy Rose, and Teri DiMarino

Not a subscriber, yet?  Click here to join Learn2GroomDogs.com and get more amazing video lessons like the two mentioned here.

 

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteJump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us what you think.


How to Get the Most from a Hands-On Grooming Clinic

Blog PicEDITEDAttending a hands-on clinic is still one of the best ways to learn. These events often feature stylists that have proven their skill level around the globe. Despite their busy workshop travel schedules, celebrity pet stylists can still be found at their grooming tables every day, just like you, grooming regular clients.

Have you ever had the opportunity to train with a celebrity pet stylist? It’s a great way to improve your skills and get super energized!

Many top professional pet stylists love to help the next generation of groomers. Some of these teaching opportunities may be demonstrations or lectures. Others might be workshops where you supply the dog or cat (as well as the grooming tools) and have the opportunity to be personally coached as you work.

So, how do you get the most out of one of these coaching sessions?

1. Make sure your core/foundation skills are strong.

 Core or foundation skills include:

Proper coat preparation
  •  bathing
  • drying
  • nails trimmed
  • ears cleaned
  • 100% tangle free coat
knowledge of basic anatomy
basic (and correct) usage of tools: brushes, combs, clippers, scissors, carding tools, and stripping knives

2. Make sure to bring a quality practice pet. 

If you do not come to the session with an adequate pet to work on, you only hurt yourself.

  • select a dog or cat with enough coat to demonstrate your skills
  • the pet must have an appropriate temperament
  • the pet should be a good representative of the breed

There are a wide variety of very accomplished pet stylists. Many specialize in a certain breed, grooming technique, or topic.  The better prepared you are to participate in the hands-on workshop, the more you’re going to get out of it. Step into the session with a very open mind.

If you are young and fresh to the industry, the information shared in these clinics can be almost overwhelming. Be the driest sponge that you can be – soak up every bit of knowledge that you can.

As your knowledge and skills develop, the clinics won’t be intimidating. They will become a great tweaking session for your skills. They will keep you abreast of advanced grooming skills and trends. Plus, these types of functions are a great way to invigorate your career.

These principles remain valid for many forms of advanced learning in the pet grooming industry. If you aren’t able to attend a hands-on training session, there are other ways to learn from the experts. Be part of the audience at a trade show or pet grooming competition. Watch a grooming video lesson featuring one of these top stylists. The better you can execute the core skills with your everyday grooming, the easier it will be to successfully transfer their lessons to your own grooming table.

If you are not as accomplished as these award-winning and highly successful pet groomers, keep at it. You can learn a lot from observing their well-developed skills. Learning new skills, tips, and tricks make grooming pets all that more fun!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S. Did I miss any tricks? Tell me what works for you.  Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.

clinicSpend the day with Melissa

Melissa Verplank will be in the Tampa, Florida area on Sunday, March 19, 2017 for an all day seminar.  Melissa will present four of her most popular lectures that are sure to help you and your business!

Click here for more information and to reserve your seat.

 


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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Making the Most of a Seminar

seminarWhen you attend trade shows and clinics, preparing in advance can help you make the most of this experience.  Seminars are a great way to improve your skills and recharge your batteries.  Meeting your mentors and soaking up their knowledge is a fantastic opportunity, and if you can see and hear them in action, it maximizes the experience.  When you know what you need and what you hope to get out of the session, you can better prepare yourself to squeeze out as much as you can from your time together.

1.  Step into the session with a very open mind.

If you are young and fresh to the industry, the amount of information that you get can be intimidating.  Listen, take notes, and soak up every bit of knowledge that you can.  Sometimes that may mean suspending what you know in order to make room for something new.  Trying new techniques or ideas can be uncomfortable just because you’ve never tried it before.  Keeping an open mind enables you to break from your routine to get different results.  With time and practice, the awkwardness goes away and you become more efficient.  Remember: having more tools, techniques, and knowledge allows you to have multiple approaches to a problem.

2.  Make efficient use of the time available.

Many trainers at these sessions have limited time.  They are often rushing from one obligation to another – judging competitions, speaking in seminars, or providing hands-on clinics.  If they can, many will take the time to answer your questions.  If you know what you need to ask, it helps you make the best use of the brief time you may have together.  Be prepared – write down your questions in advance so you don’t forget something important or stumble over your words.  Being ready to participate in the learning experience helps you make the best use of the session – and the presenter will respect you for it.

3.  Don’t be nervous – plan ahead.

With so much to see and do at trade shows, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.  Break out the catalog and study the floor plan before you arrive.  Map out your plan of attack to make sure you get to everything you need to see.  Some shows have free apps you can download to help make the most out of your experience.  Know the schedule of events so you don’t miss that speaker you’ve been hoping to see.  Sometimes it’s good to go to shows like this with a friend – divide and conquer, then compare notes later.

As your knowledge and skills advance, the clinics won’t be as daunting. They will become a great way for you to fine-tune your skills.  You can begin to network and exchange thoughts with others in the industry who can provide insight when you need it.  Plus, these types of functions are a great way to invigorate your career.

These principles remain valid for many forms of advanced learning in the pet grooming industry. Maybe you don’t have the opportunity to do a hands-on training session. There is a wealth of information to learn from these all-star pet stylists. You might be in the audience at a trade show, pet grooming competition or watching a grooming video lesson featuring one of these top stylists. The better you can execute the core skills with your everyday grooming, the easier it will be to successfully transfer their lessons to your own grooming table.

If you are not as accomplished as these award-winning and highly successful pet groomers are – take note. You can learn a lot from their well-developed skills. Learning new skills, tips, and tricks make grooming pets all that more fun!

What do you attend at trade shows? What do you look forward to shopping for when you go to Hershey? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy trimming!

~ Melissa

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