Melissa VerplankMelissa Verplank, CMG, has over 30 years of experience in the pet industry. Her mastery of grooming techniques has won her numerous awards on a national and international level. She has founded and run multiple businesses, including a fleet of mobile units, a salon that grew into the Paragon School of Pet Grooming, a luxury boarding facility called Whiskers Resort & Pet Spa, and White Dog Enterprises – which created the award-winning books, Notes from the Grooming Table and Theory of 5. She founded the online pet groomer video membership community Learn2GroomDogs.com. She was a member and Team Coordinator of GroomTeam USA and sits on the Board of Directors of that organization. Ms. Verplank is an industry speaker, author, contest grooming judge, and two-time Cardinal Crystal Achievement winner.
Melissa Verplank & The Inspiration for Learn2GroomDogs.com
Do you need to build your skills? In this episode, Joe Zuccarello is joined by author, master groomer and groom world icon, Melissa Verplank. Together they’ll discuss the origins of the all NEW Learn2GroomDogs.com site, and her devotion to helping groomers find their success through skill-building.
Learn the answer to questions like these:
- How do you build a reputation in the dog grooming world?
- How much work goes into creating training videos?
- What do horses have to do with Learn2GroomDogs?
- How do I find success grooming a dog breed I’ve never groomed before?
- When can I join Learn2GroomDogs.com?
Tune in to find out!
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Intro: Welcome to the “Hey Joe!” A podcast answering questions asked by our listeners. Created by pet professionals for pet professionals, and now, your host, “Hey Joe’s!” very own Joe Zuccarello.
Joe Zuccarello: What’s up, everyone? Joe Zuccarello here, and welcome to “Hey Joe!” A podcast brought to you by Paragon School of Pet Grooming. Check out our site at paragonpetschool.com for lots of really cool information on a variety of programs, products, and to connect to educational resources, such as webinars, podcasts, current events, special news, certifications and lots of other helpful information to help you grow yourself, your team, and of course, your business. Let’s get started with this week’s episode.
Joe Zuccarello: Hey there, everyone. Joe Zuccarello again, and I am your host of the “Hey Joe!” Podcast. It’s a podcast where you get to listen in on a real-life coaching call between myself and an expert in the pet industry. I have a very special guest on the podcast today. Her name is Melissa Verplank. She is the founder of the Paragon School of Pet Grooming. She is also the author of Notes From the Grooming Table, Theory of Five, and some other great publications. She is a world-renowned influencer in the grooming industry and world-recognized judge and competitor, winning all kinds of awards and such, but her new and most current role is providing education for you, the professional pet groomer out there, so that you can not only better your skills, but also better your career.
Joe Zuccarello: She is also the innovator behind the world’s largest and most complete grooming instruction video membership site, Learn2GroomDogs.com. Today we are talking with Melissa and she will help us better understand and answer that question of how to build your skills and your business. So go to paragonpetschool.com and check out Melissa’s vlogs and blogs, and be sure that you find out how to take full advantage of the membership site.
Joe Zuccarello: Melissa and I are going to be talking about her expertise and experience in groomer education, and also what inspired her to create Learn2GroomDogs.com in the first place. So hang on, listen in, and take full advantage of what Melissa has to offer. Let’s start today’s podcast. Hey, Melissa. Thank you for joining us today.
Melissa Verplank: Hi, thanks for having me.
Joe Zuccarello: Now this is a little bit different, right? I’m normally interviewing podcast guests that I don’t work with on a daily basis, but I get the pleasure and really the honor to work with you. I had an opportunity to work with you … I don’t know if everybody out there in podcast audience land knows, but I had an opportunity to work with Melissa as a freelance consultant for several years before coming to work with Melissa and the team, in the education companies. So, needless to say, I was a big, big fan before I was an employee if you would.
Joe Zuccarello: So I’m thrilled, Melissa, that you’re able to take some time out and join us today. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you are doing these days in your life? We know that you are a horse enthusiast and you have your Maremmas there, and what’s going in Melissa world right now?
Melissa Verplank: Oh, Melissa world I’m fortunate enough to be able to work from home and I’ve got a beautiful farm in West Michigan that we just adore, and it’s so nice to be able to just be able to look out and see my horses in the fields and to be able to focus my energy and focus on content creation without having to deal with all the daily grind of running multiple pet service businesses. I think we’re up to about 90 employees in total now, sometimes it swells a little bit bigger than that, so there’s a lot going on within all the different companies, but I just feel very privileged to be able to work primarily from home and be more a remote person dealing with more the larger picture-type view.
Melissa Verplank: And, yeah, I love that, but ever since, Joe, you’ve joined the team, you’ve definitely held our feet to the fire as far as, “Let’s do some new stuff,” and so the last couple years have been pretty darn busy. And that’s a good-
Joe Zuccarello: I think that’s a compliment, right?
Melissa Verplank: That is a compliment. That is a compliment, yeah.
Joe Zuccarello: Well, one of the really great things that you had just mentioned there is you’ve got all of the different companies and all based on education and premium pet care. All the team members, and again, you’ve built such a reputation not only for yourself but a reputation for all of us to abide by and to live up to. The topic for today’s podcast for all of the “Hey Joe!” listener audience out there, the topic today is building your skills and building your business with one of Melissa’s education companies, which is Learn2GroomDogs.com, and when I think about this particular solution, I think about how many people it has not only served but how many people it can serve.
Joe Zuccarello: Now we’re talking about people, for the most part, people that are already established groomers at various different skill levels, and we’re going to talk about why that’s important in a minute, but, Melissa, can you give everybody kind of a peek behind the curtain? Kind of go back in time and give us an idea of what inspired you creating Learn2GroomDogs.com, even though you already had books, like Notes From the Grooming Table and Theory of Five, and the on-campus grooming school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a Paragon School of Pet Grooming. What inspired Learn2GroomDogs.com?
Melissa Verplank: Well, there’s a lot of different things that really was coming down the pike, and I looked to other industries for a lot of inspiration, and with the advancements of technology and the Internet, and I know how hard it is to get good information. Personally, I’m a self-taught groomer and that’s one of the reasons why I created the school was I had such a tough time finding qualified people to work for me in my companies, whether it be in my mobile grooming businesses or my salons or wherever it might be, finding talent was really, really tough. And even though I had a school, it was still tough. Even for me, it was tough to find people, and even though I’d written a book, it still was tough to find the caliber of people that I would hire.
Melissa Verplank: So I was looking to other industries and I, being a horse person, I was really looking at that industry, and we were at a large horse trade show and I was walking down one of the isles, and I had been thinking for about a year that somehow I wanted to tie the Internet and video together so that we could be able to bring the education to the individuals wherever they might be. You know, all that they needed was internet connection, with a relatively high-speed Internet, and they could see any lesson they wanted, but I hadn’t found a form that seemed to fit us just right.
Melissa Verplank: And we were at this horse event, and I was walking down the massive corridors and all of a sudden I rounded a corner, and there on this big-screen TV was a streaming video lesson on a certain discipline of riding. I just sat there and I was like mesmerized. I was like, “This is what I was looking for,” and we ended up, at the start of Learn2Groom, we ended up partnering actually with that company, and that’s how we got our start. For the first four, five years we ran with their basic, their skeleton, and we plugged in our content, and I knew that, just like they had done, they took the top pros, Olympic riders, and just the best of the best of their industry and had lessons, and that’s exactly what we did.
Melissa Verplank: I went with our training experts, our training partners, and they are absolutely the best of the best, and we started filming and being able to bring that education to you no matter where you were at. So now, instead of having to travel and find experts to do mentor or to be coached by or to train with, if you had your computer and Internet, you could get those lessons with those super high-caliber people and you didn’t have to travel to them or go to a show or go to a workshop or whatever it might be. It was right there. Right at your fingertips, and you could sit there in your bunny slippers if you want and watch a lesson, which was just, I thought, fabulous.
Joe Zuccarello: Okay, so you bring up a great point. Let’s unpack something for just a moment. So you’re saying, for obviously all of the members, your goal, what inspired you is you saw this instructional video at a horse event and that was your inspiration for the platform, but you had this inspiration to be able to provide those instructional videos so that others don’t have to travel. Well, I can just imagine … I know that you and Marc, your husband, you traveled all around the country in your motor coach filming all of these videos, so when we say that there’s a 1000 different choices on Learn2GroomDogs.com for people to take advantage of, you filmed all of those.
Joe Zuccarello: I don’t know what labor of … The definition of labor of love really is, but I think if you looked it up it might be the two of you in your motor coach because I cannot imagine … I mean, how many hours? Did you ever take a minute to reflect and just try to remember … I mean, how many years did that take?
Melissa Verplank: Yeah. I wouldn’t even want to think about how many hours it’s taken, and truly it is a labor of love, but I also understand, from my own experience in watching others that had succeeded in … You know, here I’m able to sit with the best our industry, some of the best educators our industry has to offer, some of the most talented individuals, and all of them follow exactly what my thought is, is education is absolutely everything, and the more you know the more success you’re going to be able to create for yourself. So I just was really fortunate to have so many top pros embrace what we’re doing, and when I asked them if they wanted to film with us, they absolutely said yes. They jumped at the chance to be able to help others increase their skillset.
Melissa Verplank: But the hours, oh, my goodness. Marc was a trainer at the Paragon School for years, and he’s the one behind the camera most of the time. He brings a really unique skillset to all of our shoots because he knows what somebody is looking for when they’re trying to understand how to do a particular skill. He knows when to zoom that camera in and focus on the technique, and he knows when to pull back to be able to see the overview. So that is a really unique skillset that you just don’t get anywhere, and so he was behind the camera.
Melissa Verplank: I was doing all of the dictation for it, and I got to tell you, Joe, by the time we put a video up onto Learn2Groom, I’ve probably seen it or heard it or worked with it three times over. The really cool thing is even though I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot in my career, every single time we filmed a new session with the training expert, I learned something. I was inspired by something. Something, it was just … You know, it might not have been earth-shattering, but there’s so many aha moments for me that it’s like, “I didn’t know that,” or, “I hadn’t thought about it that way,” and to me, that is just … That’s what keeps this industry and our jobs interesting is because you can’t know it all.
Melissa Verplank: There’s always something that … There’s always some little secret, some little tip that is going to be out there that just really takes your breath away, and that’s what I love, I just love about this industry, is you can never know it all. There’s always something more to learn.
Joe Zuccarello: Well, and to your point, when you were trying to put together your, let’s call it the dream team, the experts that are out there. Obviously, you picked the best of the best, and by picking the best of the best, obviously you learned something, so you knew that the members of Learn2GroomDogs.com are going to learn something, but you’ve said to me … You’ve brought up kind of a Melissa adage, and it’s been kind of a guiding light for the team at the educational companies, and that is you’re only as good as what or who you learn from, right? So you …
Melissa Verplank: Oh, absolutely.
Joe Zuccarello: … weren’t going to put somebody in front of your learners, people that were paying for your education resources, that was anything less than stellar. Anything less than the best reputations, and not only skill-wise, but also professionalism and just the reputation in the industry overall, and I was impressed by that well before even joining the team.
Melissa Verplank: Yeah, and in order for me to even consider our training experts, for the grooming side of it, they have the minimum qualification, is they have to be one or both. They have to be at least a certified master groomer and/or a member of GroomTeam USA, and it can be one of the top 10s or it could be part of the travel team which is representing the United States in international competitions, So it’s kind of like the Olympics of our industry, but those are the qualifications for the grooming aspect of all of our training experts, and if they are not focused on the actual grooming, they’ve got to capture me somehow. They have to tell me that they are an absolute expert in another way, whether they be creative stylist … We’ve got Angela Kumpe and Laura Craig and Dawn Omboy, they are absolutely at the top of their field.
Melissa Verplank: And so those are some of our training partners, but whether it be business aspect or whatever it might be, cat grooming … Danelle German is one of our leading experts in that area, so it’s not just about dogs. It’s about dog grooming, but it’s also about cat grooming, creative styling, and then there’s business and there’s health and wellness. Sometimes it’s just sitting down and listening to our training experts and hearing their story, and I am so impressed and so inspired by the dedication that they had to master their skills. It’s astounding, and every time I get to hear one of their stories, I’m just like, “Wow.” I’m just totally blown away.
Melissa Verplank: I love that part, and a lot of these training experts have become good friends, and just because we share a lot of the same passion and the journey, and it’s a long, for most of us, it’s been a long, hard road that we’ve had to be really, really dedicated, but it’s a road that we’re all really passionate about and love what we do. So that’s all-
Joe Zuccarello: So when you’re talking about the love for the business and the love for the industry and the love for the groomers and just this passion and having these experts that were so quick to say, “I’m in. I’m with you, Melissa. Let’s do this. I’m thrilled to be able to be part of it.” That’s part of being that innovative force in the industry, and one of the things that I like to always consider myself and that’s why I think you and I work together so well is that we’re innovators. So we’re always challenging the status quo, always challenging what is normal and commonplace today may not be in the future, so it’s identifying sort of these current state of the industry affairs, but then also where is it going.
Joe Zuccarello: You’ve been able to kind of stay ahead of that curb a little bit, not that you can ever, and nobody can predict the future, but by being connected to such a vast network of people, you’ve been able to create solutions and innovate and stay ahead. So where do you see the industry going in the future? If you did have a crystal ball, what would Melissa be looking at?
Melissa Verplank: Well, number one, the opportunities in this industry are just … they’re so plentiful, and is … You know, what people love they take care of, and I don’t see the general public turning away from animals anytime soon. If anything, dogs and cats have become almost more humanized. I don’t know whether that’s such a great thing or not, but I’m a firm believer dogs and cats are hot-wired to think like dogs and cats, but there is so much compassion for the animal. If you have the skillset and you bring the passion and the compassion to the table, it’s really hard to not be successful as long as you combine the education and the safety factors, and with what we do because, I mean, let’s face it, we are dealing with live animals and we’re dealing with sharp instruments. So we have to be knowledgeable in what we’re doing so that we can maintain safety for everybody, but the opportunities are just limitless in this industry.
Melissa Verplank: As far as what I’m seeing coming down the pike, I really feel like licensing is, finally it’s time, and, you know, years and years ago there was a push for licensing and unfortunately it just didn’t get a whole lot of traction, but I think it’s a different time, and I think today I have a feeling licensing is going to be probably the next big thing. I think it’s a good thing. Our industry certainly-
Joe Zuccarello: Yeah, because I think … Yeah, our industry …
Melissa Verplank: Go ahead.
Joe Zuccarello: … need it. I guess if I can hop in there real quick because, you know, we’ve probably had some “Hey Joe!” listener audience members out there saying, “What? What does she … Wait, hold on. What is she saying?” So I want you guys to stay tuned in and I want you to stop thinking Melissa has went off the deep end, but … So let’s unpack that for just a minute, though, Melissa, because there are probably some listeners out there that can’t see maybe the benefits of licensing and/or regulation in the industry. So kind of give us your perspective. Unpack that just a minute for us and let us know why should we embrace that. Why would that be a good thing for our industry?
Melissa Verplank: Yeah. Well, I think it’s twofold. Number one is that we need to orchestrate it. We need to be the leaders of it. We certainly don’t want government stepping in and trying to tell us how to run our businesses or how to groom our dogs. That’s not what I’m necessarily about. I want our industry to be able to take the reins and to guide this, and really what we’re looking at is not so much the creative side or the artistic side of grooming, but the mechanics of safety and sanitation, and those types of things. It’s safety for the pets, it’s safety for the employees or the stylist, and being able to run a well-managed, clean, professional type entity.
Melissa Verplank: That’s where the licensing really needs to step in, and unfortunately when licensing comes about, a lot of times it’s been driven by the pet owner. Some people call it the pet parent, the pet owners, however you want to term that, but it’s because something negative is happening, and unfortunately there isn’t necessarily the best training out there across the board, and people are working with animals that maybe shouldn’t, or they don’t have control of their emotions. I mean, let’s face it, not everybody loves kids, or even if you do love kids, those two-year-olds, they can really push your buttons sometimes, and you just got to walk away from them I’m sure. I don’t have children myself, but dogs can be very much the same way, and unfortunately, animals are being injured and sometimes even dying in salons across the country.
Melissa Verplank: That’s where licensing really needs to step in to try to play a role to help minimize that. Like I said, we are dealing with sharp instruments. We’re dealing with live animals that don’t always mind and do exactly what we want them to do, and so it’s a fine balance and it’s a dance almost of how do you do this and do it safely and let your artistic flair come through while still maintaining the safety aspect of what we do, and the sanitation aspect because that’s the other thing. Dog grooming is, I’d love to say that it is glamorous and it’s beautiful and-
Joe Zuccarello: Anybody that’s listening to this podcast knows that dog grooming is not a glamorous activity in any terms.
Melissa Verplank: No. I mean, you are basically a professional athlete who is saying, “Okay, let’s get dirty,” because it … You know, and it doesn’t matter, if you’re dealing with animals, animals that’s just the nature of the beast, and I don’t care whether you’re working with horses or dogs or cats or zoo animals or whatever animal you choose, animals do what animals do, and it can be messy. So you’ve got to … Sanitation is a huge component of what we do, and it’s a regular part of what we do all the time. It’s not just-
Joe Zuccarello: I remember in the pet services business, one of my previous careers in pet resort and doggy daycare training facilities, I remember when that first started to be regulated and licensed and such, and we would have the United States Department of Agriculture come in and inspect our facilities. It caused us to raise our own game, so I think part of it is also it’s a form of education, and I think that there were some facilities that … Being one that was compliant, like we were, knowing that others were not, it did give us a competitive advantage, so for us we chose that we were going to abide by that, and we were actually going to get involved and help the United States Department of Agriculture on our state-level be able to help identify what does correct look like.
Joe Zuccarello: We have a saying that we tossed around, “What does it look like when it’s done correctly?” And to your point, part of being educated is also assuming the role of the educator, which is helping by getting involved to help guide those forces so that you’re not thought as a victim. Unless you want to play the role of the victim, get involved early. So part of that education that we’re talking about, that’s why the span of resources on Learn2GroomDogs.com is so important, and kudos to you for building that library and putting that all together in one place for somebody to be able to take full advantage of, but like we said before, there are … you know, there’s a 1000 or more videos for people to … You can watch the same video over and over again, so the experiences probably are infinite, but most recently there have been some evolution techniques or actions taken with Learn2GroomDogs.com.
Joe Zuccarello: I know you’ve overhauled this thing now three times just to be able to keep up with the industry and how members behave and what members need because they’re the ones that are asking us now, “Hey, have you ever thought about having a video series on this?” or, “Hey, can you go out and find some information on this?” And, wow. That’s flattering when they’re asking us, when they’re asking you to provide education. So one of the things that you’ve done in this most recent iteration is that you’ve broken the videos up into more bite-sized pieces, and one of the areas that I know you were very adamant about was building libraries, these mini-libraries based on skill levels or tracks that the members can hop into based on their own self-assessment. Why create those tracks? Why was that so important to you?
Melissa Verplank: Well, the library itself had just gotten to be immense, and even if you knew what you were looking for, sometimes you can kind of get lost in there. So what I wanted to do when we developed and relaunched the website for its third time, was to create some type of organization out of all of the lessons, and so it was easier to find the type of skill that you needed at the level that an individual was at because somebody who was just starting out, maybe they’ve been an assistant or a bather, they don’t need the same lessons that somebody who is trying to get certified for their master status in one of the voluntary organizations that does certification testing. They need different information, and so it’s really important that the foundational skills are the foundational skills, and that’s what everything else was built upon, is those foundational skills.
Melissa Verplank: And once you master those, then you’re ready to climb the next stair step of the journey, and you’re ready for more like beginner type videos. Then from that level, once you’ve mastered the skills necessary in the beginner level, then you’re ready to go into the stylist level, and the stylist level is kind of what I … I see it as you’re starting to mold and shape the coat, you’re starting to learn about different breed haircuts and how to make a pet look the best that it can, especially when a pet owner is bringing us a less-than-ideal specimen, or with less-than-ideal coat situation. You know, what can you do to make that dog look the best that it can without just shaving the hair off?
Melissa Verplank: And so you really start becoming an artist when you get into that stylist level, and then there’s the advanced stylist. These are really what I would consider the superstars, or people are striving to be the superstars of our industry, and they’re working with show trims and very high-level type styling. They’re the folks that are looking to get their certified master status, they’re entering the competition, the pet styling competition arena, they’re showing dogs. So we’ve been able to create videos, or to separate the videos, so that you can follow along and you don’t get overwhelmed by a more advanced video based on where your current training’s at.
Melissa Verplank: Then we also have business type videos, which is just fabulous. If I couldn’t have the help that I got early on, I would never have achieved the type of success that I’ve been able to have in business. I’d still be running one or two vans, or maybe I’d just have a salon, but today I’ve got multiple different situations going on, all within the pet service business, and the way that you get there is one step at a time. You can’t jump into the deep end if you don’t know how to swim yet, so I really want to focus people on the level that you’re ready for so that you can absorb that information.
Melissa Verplank: One of the things that I find really interesting is even if you are at an upper level, sometimes you need to step back. You need to go back and look at a previous skill level, or some of the foundational skills, and review that because maybe you didn’t master it, or maybe it could be perfected, or one of the things that I would say-
Joe Zuccarello: Or maybe you just got busy with your day-to-day life and you just forgot it, right? So I mean …
Melissa Verplank: Yeah. Right, exactly. Yeah.
Joe Zuccarello: … sometimes you just have your head down and you’re working and before you know it, especially if you’re in a smaller salon, where it might just be … or a mobile, right? Or maybe you’re by yourself or you just have a smaller group of people, or if you do have a decent size group of people, if you are the most experienced, you might not have anybody else that challenges you, or teaches you. So that’s, I think, one of the beautiful parts about Learn2GroomDogs.com, about being a member, is that you’re not alone. So even if you are physically alone, and you’re working most of the time in a mobile or a much smaller shop, or if you are the proverbial tip of the spear, right? So you’re the most experienced in a salon, you have this community of people, not only the support on the Learn2GroomDogs.com team, but you have all of these other members that are part of this community that are all pulling and absorbing this information just like any level of groomer might be out there.
Joe Zuccarello: That’s one of the things I think is so important for the audience out there, the “Hey Joe!” listener audience out there to know, is that much like all of the other industry experts, in or outside of the industry, that are our guests on the podcast, this is a solution that you can take advantage of from day one. So you can hop in, you can become a member, and you can start putting something to work for you right away as a member. But, Melissa, what are some of the members’ ongoing benefits? So somebody joins as a Learn2GroomDogs.com member, what is their long-term … I mean, once they watch a few videos, or a handful of videos, or maybe all of the videos in a certain track or multiple tracks, are they done?
Melissa Verplank: No. Like I said early on, here I’m sitting in on these video shoots and I’m learning things, and so there’s always something more to learn. Even if you are in a smaller salon or a mobile, or you’re a solo flyer, whatever it might be, don’t think that you don’t have competition. Don’t think that you don’t need to enhance your skills because if you don’t stay up to date, if you don’t stay fresh, if you don’t offer the best that you can offer to your customers, to your clients, to your pet parents, you’ve got competition that could show up, and they might be a little bit better. So it’s always important to stay on top of your game and to continue to push.
Melissa Verplank: That’s where, you know … So you go through one track and then you’re ready to jump up into a more advanced track, and those are just some of the grooming tracks that we were talking about earlier, but there’s so many other areas that somebody could dive into. It’s just basically pick a topic and dive into the search engine, and you can find a whole slew of videos on that. So what I love about it is whether you’re training yourself or whether you’re using Learn2GroomDogs as a tool to help train your coworkers so that you all get on the same page, it’s a great resource that’s at your fingertips 24/7, and you can take what you learn …
Melissa Verplank: I mean, I remember one story, a gal that was really stressed. She was more a beginner groomer kind of starting to transfer over into the stylist side of things, and she had a Bichon coming in, and she knew the client wanted a little bit fancier trim than one length all over, but she really wasn’t sure how to do it. So she’s got Notes From the Grooming Table out. She’s kind of following along with that, but she found a video that Lisa Leady had done, and she had watched it the night before. So between Notes From the Grooming Table and the video with Lisa Leady on this pet Bichon, she had a pretty good idea what she needed to do, but when that dog came in she literally had her computer or iPad, I don’t remember what it was, set up right next to her, and she said she would play a part and then she’d pause it, and she’d do whatever Lisa did. Then she’d play it a little bit more and watch it and then pause it, and she did what Lisa did.
Melissa Verplank: So she was able to groom that entire Bichon. Now, could she get it done in a super timely fashion? No, it took her probably twice as long as it should have, but it was a learning experience, and she learned. So the next time that type of a dog came in, or that dog came in again, she was able to do it without having to do that intense of a study session, but the point is, is that she taught herself how to do this, and she was out in the middle of nowhere. She didn’t have anybody to turn to. She didn’t have anybody that was mentoring her or coaching her or helping her. She was able to do this on her own, and that’s what I love about being able to utilize your resources that you have, and with technology today, there’s just so many ways that you can educate yourself, but you have to be careful and select what you’re going for because when you’re brand new, especially when you’re brand new, you don’t know the difference between good and bad.
Melissa Verplank: In this day and age with … and shoot, I’m out there all the time. With YouTube out there, you’re always looking at videos, but I’ll tell you what, I’ve floated through those YouTube channels. I see the grooming that’s going on out there that people are saying they’re experts, and I just cringe. It scares me, and so that’s one of the things that with Learn2Groom, we’ve already vetted all of our training experts, and so they are the best of the best and they automatically, even though there’s not any licensing going on, mandatory licensing in our industry right now, they all live that part where safety is critical. And again, their skill level is super high, so you know you’re getting good quality, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s an everyday pet dog or whether it’s a show dog, that’s the beauty of our training experts. Even though they’re at the top of the field, they groom everyday dogs just like everybody else.
Melissa Verplank: They’re not doing these gorgeous show grooms that you’re seeing out in the ring every single day. That’s the pinnacle, but every single day they’re doing seven-alls. They’re working on dogs, pet dogs, trying just to make them look cute. They’ve got doodles coming out their ears just like most of our members do.
Joe Zuccarello: Oodles of poodles, right?
Melissa Verplank: Yeah, right. So it allows you to grasp onto whatever you are looking for and you can … You know, all of a sudden you’ve got a client coming in the next day and maybe you’ve never done a Soft-coated Wheaten, or a Bedlington, or even you know you’ve got a matted doodle coming in or some big hairy thing. How are you going to get through that animal efficiently, safely, and with quality? So those are things that every single one of our training experts brings to the table no matter what they’re working on, whether it be the seven-all, and they’re showing you how to do that seven-all and to do it safely and efficiently and with quality. Or, is it something more? Is it a Bichon in a more stylized pet trim. So all of that type of thing is out there for them.
Joe Zuccarello: So what’s really great about it is that not only being a member … Not only does it serve up all of that, what you’re saying is that members can rest assured, they can have peace of mind knowing that that vetting, just like filming, just like going out and getting all of the education that we talked about earlier. Just like you took all that burden off of them so that they can focus on what it is that is their superpower, or their growing superpower, which is not only grooming, but maybe if they’re a business owner, a salon owner or manager, whatever, they can focus on their business with the task at hand that day and not have to worry about filtering and trudging through a variety of different examples out there.
Joe Zuccarello: That’s one of the blessings, and a curse though, about the Internet. It’s a lot of free stuff, but to your point, there are a lot of self-proclaimed experts. There are some people serving-
Melissa Verplank: Right.
Joe Zuccarello: There are some people that are out there … and they’re trying really hard. I don’t know that anybody’s out there to deceive anybody. They think that they’re being helpful, which is to some degree they probably are, so any amount of education is great, but it doesn’t always check off all of those pillars that you’re referencing, which is safety, for both the pet and the pet groomer, but also the efficiency, right? I mean, you can’t groom one dog and it take you all day, right? You’re not going to make a living. You’re not going to be able to do what I say is buy the peanut butter and jelly for your family by doing that even though [crosstalk 00:41:01].
Melissa Verplank: Right, yeah. The bills are not going to get paid.
Joe Zuccarello: Right, that one dog might be spectacular looking as it should if you spent all day, but you’re going to go broke doing that, but also does it yield a quality output? There are probably some videos out there where people are making a decent run at it and providing what they can, but it doesn’t check all the pillars that I know that you and your training experts stand for. So as we start talking about, okay …
Joe Zuccarello: Just a real quick reminder to the “Hey Joe!” listener audience out there. We’re talking with the one and only Melissa Verplank. Founder of the Paragon School of Pet Grooming. Author of Notes From the Grooming Table, Theory of Five, Pocket Pal, Shortcuts, you name it. Melissa’s kind of been one of the icons in the industry for several, several years, but she’s also the creator of Learn2GroomDogs.com, which is mostly the topic that we’re talking about today. So as we’re talking about all of the benefits that members can take advantage of and belonging to this community and not feeling alone and having a voice, right? Again, we talked about a lot of the videos that are in the library are a result of your members of Learn2GroomDogs.com from years and years prior saying, “Hey, it’d be great if you had this.”
Joe Zuccarello: So all of that, it’s a back and forth conversation in the community, which is really great. Okay, so we’ve talked about all of the benefits and such, but what do the “Hey Joe!” listener audience members out there do now? What should they go and do? What do you recommend they go do right now to maybe get a taste test of the membership or maybe even contemplate becoming a member and improving their skills?
Melissa Verplank: Yeah, well the first thing is definitely take a peek at the new website, which will be launching in September of 2019. So if you have been a member in the past or you’ve never heard about Learn2Groom definitely jump on and take a peek at that new site because it’s definitely been … It’s new and it’s improved and we’re really proud of the way that it’s showcases all of the videos in the library. Lot easier to find things. I think, people that are, our current members, are going to be really, really happy with how it functions. I think they’re going to find it a lot easier, but the other thing that we’re really focusing on is developing the community and not just putting information out there, but actually having an avenue where people can easily communicate back with us and ask questions and be there to help others find their success, to be able to grow their career, and to have the members actually reach out and to help each other as well.
Melissa Verplank: So we’re really fostering a lot more community than we ever have before, and I’m really excited about that. Then, in order to be able to do that, one of the things that is new and different is it will be a closed membership. So you might be looking at the website, but you can’t join, and that’s okay. Don’t worry. There is a place that you can jump on that waitlist, and we’re going to be opening the membership once or twice a year. We’re not exactly sure how often we’re going to open up that membership, but it is going to be a closed membership and there’s only going to be certain times that you can jump on and become a member.
Melissa Verplank: By doing that we’re really being able to focus a lot more on the community and put our efforts and our thought process behind supporting the community instead of constantly trying to figure out ways to market, though. You know, I just don’t want to be marketing all the time. I want to help people, and I can’t help them if we’re constantly trying to figure out what special or what we’re going to run or how many … We just can’t do everything, and so this is our way to be able to really listen to our members and go out and get more videos because we’re always adding more educational videos to the library.
Melissa Verplank: So this is the chance for our members to not only ask us questions, but make requests, and we’ve got a lot of different things kind of scheduled to help with that community, and from having Facebook Q&A type, our question and answer type things live, question and answers. Joe, you’re doing a special where you actually are doing live questions and answers too. You know, from more a business-
Joe Zuccarello: Yeah. We’re going to do the Facebook …
Melissa Verplank: Yeah, a more a business-
Joe Zuccarello: Right, we’re going to do the Facebook Q&A. We’re going to have you on there, we’re going to have training experts as part of those Q&As, we’re going to … and again, all the members are going to be asking us questions, but you’re right I get an opportunity to do this little feature, little coaching sessions if you would. That little 10 minute, very powerful, very packed with lots of great stuff that you can put to work in your business that come directly from questions in the industry.
Melissa Verplank: Yeah. From the questions from the industry, but also one of the things that I just loved when we were talking about this is that I hired you for a number of times as a private consultant for a year at a time, and the amount of information that you were able to help me with was instrumental in how we grew the companies. So I want our members to be able to kind of be able to … Sorry, Joe, have a little piece of you too because you are brilliant when it comes to building businesses. So our members are going to have access to not only just the Learn2Groom training partners, but also my entire team that is under the hood and making this whole thing work, and by focusing on having a private Facebook group we’re going to able to really hone in on those questions.
Melissa Verplank: I’m really excited about that aspect. We haven’t worked that aspect before, so I’m super excited to see that launch, and again, it’s going to be September 2019 when we actually unveil the new site and all the new features. But, like I said, it is going to be a closed membership instead of just open. Now, you can hop off anytime you want, but you’ll have to wait before you can get back in again. It’s just something new and different that I’m excited to see the advantages of that.
Joe Zuccarello: Well, and again, it’s our way of serving the members. So if keeping our cart closed for a handful of months, and like you said, not distracting ourselves or using up all of our energy to try to figure out how to get more members. It’s how do we log on the members we’ve got? How do we create a stronger community and such? So, to kind of tie everything back together, one of the things, Melissa, that you said earlier and it’s kind of been your guiding principle and now it’s kind of the motto of your education companies, which is helping others find their success because success is defined individually and it’s all based on where each person starts from, or each person feels that their finish line is. I know that everything that you create and everything that you ask of us and your team to create is based on helping others find their success, and then all of the benefits that take members to new heights in their careers.
Joe Zuccarello: Again, their success might be being able to do a dog breed that they’ve never done before, it might be one more dog per day. It might be, “I want to take a vacation once a year, so my success is earning some time off,” which would be phenomenal, and being able to pull away from it. So you got all of these things that are all kind of wrapped in that helping others find success. One of the things that you recommend people do is go to the website. It’s Learn2GroomDogs.com. Use the number two, Learn2GroomDogs.com, and if the cart is closed, if you’re listening to this podcast and for whatever reason, you’ve missed the open cart. You’ve missed open enrollment. That’s okay. It’s going to come back around, but you absolutely must join the waitlist so that we know who you are and that you’re anxious to get started right away, and heck, who knows? Maybe we’re going to send you a bonus or two along the way just to help you out and kind of feed your fire if you would as you wait for the cart to reopen.
Joe Zuccarello: So, Melissa, I just want to say thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with us. Thank you for being a visionary for the industry. I’m sure the “Hey Joe!” listener audience out there, there are a number of them that are already big fans of yours, and if you are not already a big fan of Melissa’s, just start to take advantage of the education opportunities that she’s created over the years and you’ll quickly be a big fan. So thanks again, Melissa, for being part of the “Hey Joe!” Podcast. This was a real treat.
Melissa Verplank: Absolutely. Thank you. I certainly enjoyed it and I cannot wait to see people and their successes. I love hearing stories, so definitely get out there, share them with us however you can because that is really, I think, the driving force is watching other people succeed and have the confidence to do a better job and to be happy and successful with what they do.
Joe Zuccarello: Well, those are your words of wisdom, “Hey Joe!” listener audience out there, so go get involved, keep getting educated, keep learning, and we’ll talk to you next time.