As a large, high-end salon, daycare, and boarding facility, I understand some of the challenges that go along with being successful in this industry. Melissa and her vast team of experts have been instrumental in clearing a path to success for me and my team. The educational products Melissa and Paragon produce are top-notch and would streamline training in any salon in any part of the world.
As Mishelle Hancock’s grooming business grew, administration became a challenge. Learn how Paragon’s Distance Learning Program lightens the load and helps the Tulsa salon flourish. “It’s a great investment for me. I start seeing a return in four weeks,” says Mishelle. “The students are loving the program. They find it easy and personable.”
Joe: Okay everyone, thanks for joining us again. I have Mishelle Hancock with me, and Mishelle has been somebody that I have kept close tabs on for several years, as she has come full circle in not only developing herself, but also developing her business, and I can’t wait for her to tell you her transformational story, so Mishelle, I don’t want to steal any of your thunder. Tell us a little bit about you and your business.
Mishelle H.: Well, I opened my business about the year 2000. My dad got a dog and wanted me to start grooming it, so I wanted to do that correctly and right, and so I went to school. There used to be a school here in Oklahoma, so I went to school. They had a certification program, so I certified and opened my business. I opened it in February of 2000, and it’s just been growing ever since. We have added doggie daycare, which is an enrichment program that we use through Dog Gurus, and then we offer overnight lodging too. So that is just part of my transformation as we grow and get bigger, we’re up to 12 employees now, and it’s just going good, Joe.
Joe: That’s great. And you know what’s interesting about your business is that you have all of those different services that you offer, but you started with a core business, which is grooming, right?
Mishelle H.: Yes.
Joe: So as you started with your core business in grooming, tell us a little bit about your approach to hiring and training people, specifically in just that grooming part of your business.
Mishelle H.: When I first started training people, it wasn’t really training. I started out hiring groomers that already had experience. Groomers can be challenging. They can be challenging. So I decided I was going to start raising my own stylists, so training them became a challenge to. At first, it was going great, I did it very successfully. I’ve got several of my former trainees that have opened their own shop in the Tulsa area and stuff and are doing great business, and I kind of take pride in that, that I have raised them up to do that.
Mishelle H.: But as the business grew and ass my administration duties grew, things just got a little bit more challenging. My number one highest priority is safety, then quality, then client care, and you know how hard that is to train in those areas, so I had to do something. I was giving a lot of time away from the administration duties that I had, and I was losing money by doing that. So as it got more costly, I happened to be talking to Melissa Verplank one day and was telling her about my woes, and she said, “Hey, I am working on this new program.” She said, “It’s an online distant learning program.” And I said, “Really? Tell me more about it.”
Mishelle H.: So we got to visiting about it and stuff, and she introduced me to you, Joe, and I started looking at it, I visited with you about it on numerous occasions. And I am not a person just to jump in and make too many changes really quick. I always want to do the research on it. So I kind of started doing the research on it and hoping to just see what it was all about. I started putting paper to pencil and figuring out the cost effective and all this stuff, and when I got to the end of that, I enrolled my first student.
Joe: So how did then, once you took that leap, obviously, and there’s a lot of salon owners out there just like you that might be right on that line. Do I do it? Do I not do it? Tell us about maybe what were some of the things in the beginning when you were still contemplating, when you were doing all of the research, maybe address … I think you had even asked me, “Can people really learn how to groom dogs online?” And what role does that play, and what role do I play in their training stuff? Does it completely take over my responsibility during training, or is it more of a partnership in training?
Mishelle H.: It’s more of a partnership, but my role and my involvement in their learning just is depending on student. Some students are really independent and they like to get on there, they like to just do things themselves. I’ve got one right now that, I have her login information, but I don’t ever even check her. And then there’s some people that, they want you to be more hand-holding, so it just depends on the student that you have. Neither one is right or wrong, but what I like about this program is you can work it both ways. Before, when I was just training myself and I was training my groom techs and my bathing techs, I felt like I always had to be there with them. I always had to make sure that they were being safe with the dogs and that their quality was there. I would even teach them how to talk to the clients and stuff like that.
Mishelle H.: So all that was very hands-on and very touchy feely, and that takes a lot, a lot of time. It just is going to depend on your student and what they’re like, their personality.
Joe: How much time do you think that the program … Has it added to the time of training? Has it decreased the time of training, or has it made some of the training that you’ve been doing, has it made it more complete?
Mishelle H.: It definitely has made it more complete. It just depends on what part of my career I’m looking at. When I very first started training, and I had one student, and I could concentrate on that, I could do it pretty quickly because I was right there, I was in a smaller shop at that time, so I could see where they were, and still do some of my work, and watch them too. As I’ve moved up to bigger shops and everything, I’m a little bit more separate from them, so it does take me longer to go back, so I’ve noticed a big difference in the time it was taking away from what I needed to be doing as a business owner. So with Paragon, it’s all right there, they can come get me if they need me. Some of the questions that they have, the other, bathing department or the other stylists can help them with that, so that works out really well too.
Joe: So what area of the program were you most surprised by in a good way? So it was like, “Wow, I didn’t realize it would do this for me or for my student.”?
Mishelle H.: I didn’t realize it was going to save me the money because when you’re looking at the initial cost, you think, “Oh, that’s a chunk of money.” But then, as I started studying it and I started putting pencil to paper on it, you helped me with the numbers too some, Joe, and I just, in my salon, it takes a student about four to five weeks to pay back that money. I pay for the program completely with what they do because they’re still grooming my client dogs, so I’m still making money on the dogs that they are grooming, so like I said, it takes about four or five weeks in my salon, salons are going to be different all over, to make back that money. So that’s a great investment for me. I start seeing a return in four weeks, and it’s great.
Joe: So Mishelle, what would you say to salon owners out there who, traditionally, when we’re short staffed, we search for groomers. Our knee jerk reaction is, find a groomer who is already skilled, already trained, and bring them into my business. How has this changed your approach to what was that traditional approach?
Mishelle H.: Well, we all have, all business owners, we have these special people that come around, they come through our businesses, and we know that they’ve just got it. They just have the abilities, and they have the drive, and they have the passion to do this kind of hard, hard work. So when we find those people, I believe that we owe it to them to give them the best training that there is out there and to set them up for success in their careers. That’s just human to human quality. We just owe that to each other, and that’s what I’m liking about the Paragon, it’s been a great way for me to invest in people, and that’s what my business is all about. Yes, we’re here for the dogs and everything, but I always tell my employees that we are in the pet business, but make no mistake, we are in the people business and we’re in the peace of mind business. So those things are very super important to us here, so I think that the Paragon School has really helped with that because they teach that too. They might not come out and teach it in words, but with the help of a coach with them, they get that.
Joe: So what would you say, if you were sitting across the table from a salon owner right now and he or she was asking you, “Listen, I’ve studied it. I don’t know if I want to pull the trigger or not.” What would you say to them from your heart, from what it is that you’ve transformed, what would you say to them about that decision?
Mishelle H.: I would probably tell a salon owner … I would want to tell them to, for sure, get the numbers, look at the numbers. I would tell them that they need to evaluate their current training and measure it up to Paragon and just see what they think. They are going to be pleasantly surprised. The program is top notch. All the coaches and stuff that are in there know what they’re doing. They know what they’re doing, and that was one of the things that I had problems with before. My quality of training was going down, and I could see that, and that was one of the reasons that I started talking to Melissa about it. I would say just go for it. Go for it. Try one student. It’s not going to hurt you to try one student and see how you like it. You’re going to be pleasantly surprised and you’re going to be a Paragon person for life.
Joe: What else might I not have asked you that you want to share about you, your business, how about maybe something from the learners? What have the learners, what have your students reported back to you?
Mishelle H.: The students are loving the program. They find it very easy and very personable, the coaches and everything that they talk to are doing great, the instructors and stuff. They’re teaching them a lot. I’ve even found that they have been teaching some things that I didn’t teach that the students had to learn on their own as they go, as far as dog handling, stuff like that. They learn that. I think that the training that they do creates a very solid and a very stable learning environment for them, and that produces a higher quality, and that also produces a more confident student. And when you have a more confident student, you’ll have a much better stylist in the end of this, and I just think that it’s the best program out there.