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Check out Melissa Verplank’s latest vlogs!

Spend a few minutes to get inspired by Melissa’s tips on how to be a better groomer. From canine anatomy to time-saving tips, Melissa lends her years of experience to help power up your grooming career, whether you’re independent, and employee or own your own salon.

Training Grooming Assistants

Melissa Verplank discusses how assistants can make or break your grooming day. Tune in for some solid advice on how to train staff, break down tasks, and build a stronger team!

Want more inspiration? Check out our Online Dog Groomer Training courses or the ALL NEW community at Learn2GroomDogs.com, where you can find hundreds of instructional videos by industry experts, all organized by Skill Level. While you’re there, sign up to be notified when enrollment opens.

Melissa Verplank: Hey guys, Melissa here and today I want to talk to those of you that work with assistance and in the grooming salon assistance can absolutely make or break you. When they work up to the quality that you expect there is nothing better than seeing a well oiled team work together to be able to turn out quality dog after quality dog after quality dog. And the root of everything that we do in the grooming salon is in that bathing and drying area. We call it the wet area. And if somebody is trained properly, they can make your grooming day go so much smoother and there is nothing better than having a dog placed on your table and getting started to do the finish groom when it is absolutely prepared beautifully. And so unfortunately most assistants, they don’t come to you trained, you have to do the training and there’s a lot of different ways to do that.

Obviously I’m in the educational field, so I’ve got a lot of different materials with notes from the grooming table, theory of five, learntogroomdogs.com in the core skills or the just getting started videos at the Paragon school. We also have a home study program which a lot of salon owners are working with right now to help them get assistance trained rapidly and utilizing quality techniques to get that end result. But whatever you program or however you go ahead and teach, I want you to think about teaching in incremental steps. You’ve got to start at the very bottom and then work up and work up and work up. And you need to paint a picture for the new learner of what does it look like when it’s done correctly? And then show them samples of what you would accept or what are you looking for when it’s done correctly so that they have a very clear picture in their mind of something to aim for.

So make sure you give them lots of examples and the examples aren’t just a challenging dog. What does a lab look like when it’s done correctly? What does a golden retriever look like when it’s done correctly? What does a bichon or a lhasa or a shih tzu or any of the mixed breeds, the doodles, what does it look when it’s done correctly? And focus more on coat type more than breeds because we’re only going to see a couple different coat types and you can train and break that down a lot easier for the individual so that they can get it done correctly. And then once they are in the learning process, whether they’ve read a book or watched a video or you’ve demonstrated something, I can’t stress how important it is to have them do it immediately. The studies show over and over again it is amazing how rapidly somebody loses the detail of what they’ve just been taught if they don’t apply it immediately.

So it’s really important to have them do some type of training, educating, learning how to do it and then have them demonstrate it immediately. And then once you get them to the point that they’re working and they’re starting to provide dogs and going through the bathing and drying process, when they’re bringing dogs out to you, make sure that you give immediate feedback because you can’t fix what you don’t know. And some of the most effective learning comes from making mistakes. So if you don’t point out what was done well and what could be an opportunity area to be done better, they’re not going to know to fix something.

And here’s an idea that seems to work really well for a lot of folks and I love using number systems. It just really helps simplify what we’re trying to achieve. And sometimes it can take a little bit of the sting out of, if somebody isn’t working quite up to snuff by giving a number system to it. And maybe you’re going from one to 10 and one to three would be, you know what, the work just isn’t acceptable. It’s got to be done again. Or maybe you go up to a four to six, it still needs some work. Maybe a seven an eight would be it’s acceptable, still room for improvement but it’s acceptable and then a nine or a 10 would be absolutely knocking it out of the park.

This is exactly what you want to see every single time. And you know, even on one particular dog, they might have absolutely nailed it, knocked it out of the park in one area but there’s another area on the dog that still really needs work or shoot, maybe it needs to be done again. You’ve got to give that feedback and if it needs to be done again, don’t you do it, have them go back and do it correctly. Because if you’re not holding them accountable, they’re just going to start giving you subpar work and that’s not what you’re looking for.

So, is training tough? Yeah, it can be challenging because you’re having to normally teach on the fly. Normally you’ve got a full load already. You’re trying to do all the finish work on the dogs and at the same token you’re trying to train an assistant. And that can be frustrating, but I’m going to tell you when you do it, when you take the time and do it right and you’ve got a willing learner who strives to do it correctly, there is nothing better. And honestly it shouldn’t take that long to get a bather up to the point that they can really be an asset to you maybe doing 80 or 90% of the dogs that they’re working on for you and doing them well and helping you move through your roster a lot more effectively. And really focus on those 80% of typical dogs that you see every single day.

And then as they build skill and confidence, you can start adding little more challenging. Maybe it’s a little different coat type. Maybe the personality of the dog is a little more challenging or maybe you are leaning on them to get some of the mats and the tangles and the dead coat out more and more and more for you so that you can focus more on the finish work. But just start again, just break it into small steps. Allow that learner to feel success, to get the praise that they need that they’ve done a good job, and I’m going to tell you, most of them will really strive to continue to make those dogs look better and better and better for you ultimately making the entire salon run much more smoothly.

The Tool for Consistent Grooming

Melissa Verplank talks about how guard combs can change your entire grooming team. Learn about the strengths, styles, and secrets of guard combs past and present!

Want more inspiration? Check out our Online Dog Groomer Training courses or the ALL NEW community at Learn2GroomDogs.com, where you can find hundreds of instructional videos by industry experts, all organized by Skill Level. While you’re there, sign up to be notified when enrollment opens.

Melissa Verplank: Hi guys, Melissa here. And today I want to talk about one of my all time favorite tools. And it is a tool that’s been around for a long, long time. They have made a lot of changes to it over the years and it’s really versatile for many different situations, but I really learned the value of it, back in my mobile grooming days when I had an entire fleet of vans and we had offered consistent grooming between a whole team of people and we didn’t have the ability to be side by side to be able to see, to be able to communicate and bring unity to my entire organization. But this one particular tool allowed that to happen without me having to be right there beside each and every one of my groomers out on the road. And that particular tool are the guard combs and like I said, they’ve made a lot of changes over the years.

Back in the day I worked with the plastic attach on combs, but still the principle is the same. They’ve just made a lot of adjustments and there’s a lot of different brands out there today. This happens to be the Wall brand that I’ve got. It’s an older set that belongs to my husband Mark, but what I learned with these is, you can mimic almost hand scissoring but it gives you a depth to go to because each one, if you look at these, basically they’re going to cut about the length that is here and so you can get consistent length over a dog depending on which guard comb you’re using. This one happens to be the blue one or this one is cutting a little bit longer. It’s a little hard to see in here but I think you can see the little bit of the difference.

This one happens to be peach or the yellow one would be a real, those the three that I just showed you would be kind of my go to ones every single day, but these are so great because today they come even in a wider variety of lengths than what I was accustomed to working with. This one is like a light blue and if you look at this side by side and again where you’re looking at your cutting distance is going to be basically right from here to here and they allow you to get consistent over the entire body of the dog.

The other thing that I love about this particular style of guard comb, and again many different manufacturers out there, but one of the things that I look at is number one, it’s metal, so it’s going to give you durability. I’m going to pop over to this yellow one just it’s a little easier to handle, so the metal gives you the durability, the teeth when it plastic, they have a tendency to get worn right here and it’ll catch hair where the metal guard combs don’t have that problem, they hook on with, this one happens to be a spring, but they also come magnetic where they just fit right over the blade and again, you can use them depending on which guard combs you’re working with.

You can work with the smaller clippers, the more detailed little ones or the larger, more powerful clippers. These will fit depending again which brand you’re working with. They come so that they fit over those blades. And again, I love him for the durability and if you stop and think about it, if you’re working with a big doodle, you’re going to want possibly a little bit more coat left over that dog to give that client, that kind of fluffy kind of look, if the dog’s in decent shape because you are not going to get this particular blade, any of these attachments through a very matted dog. They can handle a little light tangle but they can’t power through a matted dog.

But if you have a client that’s taking care of their dog, you can get a really long, fluffy trim utilizing this particular tool and it’s going to mimic the hand scissor look and hand scissoring, I love to hand scissor. That was one of my specialties and I still, there’s nothing that matches a beautifully done hand scissored dog. But when we’re dealing with production grooming, which is our everyday salon styles, sometimes hand scissoring just isn’t the most efficient way to go about getting a job done in a timely manner and that’s where these little guys are really going to come in and save the day for you and they take away the thought process. Scissoring, hand scissoring and to do it well takes an awful lot of skill and what I have found that with the guard combs you can mimic the look of hand scissoring and still get a really, really nice job.

Now sometimes you’ll get some tracking left over in the coat. Again, it depends on how that coat, the texture of the coat and especially how the dog was prepared. The better prepared it is in the bath and the drying process, the better the finished trim. But still even with an absolutely, spectacularly prepared dog, you might get some bumps and some ridges in the coat and then you just follow up with a pair of thinners or chunkers and those are kind of your, the groomers, erasers and they’re going to take out those marks. But when you’re working with a guard combs, you could set the length, you can communicate that length to other stylists so that you can duplicate the work in your salon so your clients are getting consistency every single time. And I learned this back in the day when I was hand scissoring a lot of dogs because I was working at becoming one of the top stylists in the country and the way that you do that to get to be really good is you practice.

And so I was hand scissoring everything that I could, every single day in my mobile vans. All the poodles, the Bichons, the mixed breeds, anything that I could scissor, I did. But what would happen when I would go away or another one of my stylists had to follow my work, they were terrified. They didn’t know how much coat to leave because I had written hand scissor all. What is that? And so they would get really tentative about what to do. And bottom line, they would basically do a bath and brush and maybe tip the coat. They just didn’t know how much length to take off because I was training myself to groom, to breed profile and to groom to structure. And I understood that. But the rest of my team, they didn’t understand it the way that I did and so it was really, really hard for them to follow my work and to do the same type of job.

And when all of a sudden I got taken out with an injury to my right hand and I couldn’t groom for a while, my team had to mimic what I was doing with my clients cause they had to take my clients over for a while. And I finally realized that the guard combs gave them the guideline that they needed to be able to do a better job mimicking the work that I was doing and down the road I just really found out how much consistency these particular little tools brought to my entire team. It was just, it was like night and day. Once we really started working with these and then we started to, as we wrote down what we did on the pet record, we would say, maybe a bichon with a number one guard comb. Well, today we might say a bichon modified show trim with a yellow guard comb.

Or maybe we do it with a peach guard comb. That’s how we would write it down. And once you are able to set the body length with one of these particular tools and be able to set the length based on which one you’re using, it made everything else come in so much easier and they could get the balance on the legs and they could cut in the angles on the dog simply by using these guard combs, where if they were hand scissoring it, they’d never be able to get that same look, nor could they get the quality. Because again, hand scissoring, it takes a long time to master that skill. And let’s face it, you’re dealing possibly with an eight inch blade out in front of you. You’ve got a lot of really sharp metal that you’re opening and closing and we’re working on live animals. Accidents happen.

So the guard combs really help with the safety aspect of what we do every single day as well as bringing in the quality and the third thing that I really love is, you just don’t have to think about it. You don’t have to wonder what’s underneath that coat. The guard comb is setting the length for you. And so you can just go ahead and focus on other parts of the groom to bring that quality in alignment. Where are you setting the pattern? What angles are you trying to accentuate? How are you trying to make that dog look the best that it can look without having to worry about the depth of coat that you’re leaving. Because the guard comb is really, it’s doing it for you. And if you get your hands on that dog beforehand or maybe when you are bathing and drying the dog, you’re taking a look and you’re catching a feel of those dogs, you know there’s a dip in the top line.

Okay. So as you’re gliding over that with one of these guard combs, maybe you don’t press hard on that area. Maybe you float over it a little bit. So now you can start doing corrective grooming as well, all in the ways that you work with these guard combs. So they’re a very time effective, time saving tool that can really enhance your quality. And the more that you learn about bone structure and body structure, and corrective grooming, you can really work with this tool as well to accentuate it. And again, like I said, you’ve got such a variety of the depth of coat that you can leave whether you’re dealing with a super short, I mean, this is almost the same length as what your normal clipper blades are going to leave versus going all the way up to the really long ones.

And again, the bigger the dog, sometimes the longer the coat that needs to be left. Now I will say with any of the guard combs, most of the time you need to have a dog that’s in relatively good shape in order to do these longer haircuts. And that wouldn’t matter whether you’re hand scissoring or using a guard comb, you still need to have those dogs coming in on a four to maximum six week rotation so that you can keep that coat well-maintained and relatively mat free.

So if you haven’t worked with these a lot or you haven’t mastered the technique, take the time to master the technique with these guard combs because they’re absolutely amazing to work with. And again, your thinning shears are your erasers. So if you’re getting bumps in the coat, you’re getting tracking that you’re not happy with, just after the final sweep over that dog hit it lightly with a pair of chunkers or with a pair of thinners to take those marks out and your dogs are going to look great. Every single time they walk out of the salon and ultimately your customers are going to know exactly what they’re going to get every single time. And that’s one of the things that really brings customers back to you. And that’s your consistency.

The Pace of Learning

Melissa Verplank discusses the three stages of learning and how continued education plays a long-term role in your grooming career. Tune in for tips about how to hold onto the joy of learning, plus some snack ideas for the Westminster Dog Show!

Want more inspiration? Check out our Online Dog Groomer Training courses or the ALL NEW community at Learn2GroomDogs.com, where you can find hundreds of instructional videos by industry experts, all organized by Skill Level. While you’re there, sign up to be notified when enrollment opens.

Melissa Verplank: Hi guys. Melissa here. Last night I was watching the final part of Westminster Dog Show 2020. I always love watching that show, not necessarily because I’m learning so much, but I’m verifying what I know. Yeah, learning some new things as well.

There’s so many new breeds that are being introduced to the American Kennel Club, and sometimes I don’t always know what that dog should look like, what nice specimens are. As long as I know what the dog should look like, more than not, I can make that dog, if I were to have a pet one walk into the salon, I would have the resources and knowledge to know how to make that dog look like it should. Every single year, I always love watching Westminster. I can’t remember when I’ve ever missed one in the last almost 30 years.

But while I was sitting there watching the show, it’s a long show and it goes over two nights. We had had dinner my husband and I, and I had that inkling for something sweet. I really wanted something, but at the same token, I eat keto. And keto is a pretty strict diet plan that eliminates a lot of different things. What I wanted to have and what I could have were two totally different things. I wanted brownies so badly, but I couldn’t. That just wasn’t in my eating plan, and I didn’t want to break.

So I went upstairs and I was kind of rummaging around and I thought, “I’m going to make some fat bombs.” I love chocolate chip cookies, so I thought, “I’ll make some chocolate chip fat bombs.” So I pulled everything out, I was mixing it up, but I didn’t have any soft butter. What I ended up doing was throwing the small bowl in the microwave, melting the butter, and then I added the rest of my ingredients. When I got done with it and I’m starting to mix it up, it was just runny. It wasn’t like a normal cookie dough-type fat bomb. So I thought, “Hmm, this isn’t going to work. This isn’t coming out the way that I really wanted it to.”

Then I took a piece of knowledge that I had from another source. My good friend Judy Hudson showed me how to make keto mug bread. I thought, “I wonder if I were to add an egg to this little mix that I’ve got going on and toss it in the microwave for 90 seconds, I wonder if I’d end up with something like a chocolate chip cookie. That would work.” So I did it, and I got to say, I don’t have one to show you right here. But last night during the dog show, I had my little bowl of chocolate chip, kind of like a cookie brownie. It absolutely did the trick. It got me over that craving of those brownies, something sweet that I wanted to just sit there and slowly eat.

As I was sitting there watching this show and enjoying my little treat that I had made for myself, I realized that I was still being true to my diet plan, but it also related to what I was doing as a career move as well. I think it would apply to you guys, too.

When you first start learning, I’ve always compared a brand new learner to a dry sponge, and there is so much to learn with professional pet grooming. You’re just soaking it up, soaking it up, soaking it up. With the Paragon training programs, one of the things that I’ve always tried to relate it to is, we take in a 600 clock hour program and compact what it took me three years to gather on my own and push it down into just 600 hours. So it makes the learning a lot more concise and a lot more pointed. I mean, we know exactly where the learner needs to go. But I look at those new learners as dry sponges and how much information they need to absorb until that sponge is pretty moist. You could wring it out, and then it would absorb a little bit more, and it would wring out and absorb a little bit more. When I think about learning, I think about that brand new beginner being that dry sponge.

Then you’ve got that intermediate phase. That phase can go for a really, really long time. Sometimes it never goes away. But I call that the intermediate level. That’s where you’ve got enough knowledge, you’re not learning like a dry sponge anymore. But all of a sudden, you’re going to hear something, and you’re going to go, “Hmm, I wonder if that would work.” You start putting things together. But there’s always another something you can learn, and there’s something else that you can put together to make your job be faster, be more effective, be more rewarding. It really helps minimize the burnout if you keep realizing that you’re not going to come to an end of your learning.

Even when you hit that top level, which I would consider mastery, the learning really starts to continue forward, and that’s where you start putting new things together and making it work for you, kind of like what I did with those brownies last night. Or not the brownies, that’s what I wanted, but those little chocolate chip keto-type cookies. I thought, I have been dealing with my diet since my late 20s, and I’m approaching the late 50s now. I didn’t just flip over to keto and flip a switch and knew how to eat this way. It’s been a really long journey, and I’ve learned and I’ve learned and I’ve learned how to tweak my diet to make myself feel better. I’m constantly making adjustments and changes to it based on more information that I learn.

But bottom line is, now I can take something, I can look at a recipe and adapt it to what I need it to be. I can look at grooming, I can look at business, and I can pull, and I can model, and I can get ideas and inspirations from other areas and pull it into my businesses. Or for you guys, you might be able to pull some new something that you’ve heard, that you’ve read, that you’ve seen, that somebody told you, and apply it to your everyday grooming. That’s going to make your day go so much easier.

It’s just the little things. No longer are you making these big leaps in knowledge, but you’re making these little fine adjustments to get to that mastery stage where you’re just getting better and better and better. You’re really being able to put together a lot of different things together to make it work for you.

That’s what’s so cool about professional pet grooming is that there’s no absolute black and white. There’s no point where you get where you don’t know everything. There’s always more to learn. There’s always more things that you can change, that you can adjust, that you can apply to make your day just go a little bit easier and to get that satisfaction, that reward that it worked. Or even if it didn’t work, kind of like my cookies. I mean, I want to make a little changes in that recipe that I did last night, but you got to start somewhere. Then it’s just a matter of tweaking it and tweaking it and tweaking it until you can get it absolutely perfect.

That’s what I challenge you guys to do, is to stay on that quest for information, to gain that knowledge. It just really helps make your day be more interesting and for your career to be more satisfying.

Effective Versus Efficient

Melissa Verplank explains the difference between being effective and being efficient. Make sure your team is effective by considering her tips and examining your existing strategies!

Want more inspiration? Check out our Online Dog Groomer Training courses or the ALL NEW community at Learn2GroomDogs.com, where you can find hundreds of instructional videos by industry experts, all organized by Skill Level. While you’re there, sign up to be notified when enrollment opens.

Melissa Verplank: Hi guys, Melissa, and this weekend I read something that really hit a chord with me and it’s something that I’ve always thought about and I think I always practice and I hopefully I pass it on to all of you guys as well. But to actually see it in print, it just really reminded me of the importance of these two very similar but different words. And what I read in a book was the author was saying that we should be effective versus being efficient. And I went, boy does that strike a chord? Because I’m always saying be efficient, be efficient, create routines. But there’s a little subtle difference between the word effective and efficient.

And so I want you to think about how can you be more effective, not only being efficient because being efficient just means yes, you’re doing something quickly, but are you doing it effectively? Are you doing it the easiest way you possibly can while getting the best results? And so a couple of the things that I really thought about was, are you pre-clipping a dog when it really doesn’t need to be pre-clipped? For me, I would always make sure that anything that came in every six weeks or less, it went directly to the tub. There was no passing go. I didn’t even do basics. I didn’t do sanitary, I didn’t do nails, I don’t do ears. I do everything afterwards. I get that dog clean first. So six weeks or less, it goes directly into the bathtub, gets bath, gets dried and then I do all the work at one time. So that is a difference between being effective versus being efficient.

Another one would be, are you pre-brushing a dog? I always say if water can penetrate the coat, get it into the tub before you start brushing. Who wants to brush a dirty, grimy, nasty dog? On top of which that oil in that dirt and the debris that’s in the coat holds those maps together. So if you can get that dog clean before you put a brush on it, it’s going to go so much easier. It’s going to be easier on you, it’s going to be easier on the dog. And if you are really being effective, you are actually taking that dog, sedating it up in the tub, if it’s really a tangled mess and maybe you’re pulling in the high velocity dryer into the bathing area and literally blowing the shampoo out of the coat just like if you’ve got a ring on that’s too tight, how do you get that ring off? You soap it up, right? Well, same thing as going to work with a dog’s coat.

So my general rule of thumb is, if the water will penetrate the coat and get through those mats, those tangles, that crud that’s there, get him in the tub first, let the water, let the shampoo, let the conditioner, and let your high velocity dryer do the bulk of the work for you. Again, the difference between being efficient versus being effective. If you are effective, you’re getting it done in the least amount of time possible while yielding the best result.

Another one is are you pre-wetting a dog? With all of the shampoo systems that are out there, a lot of folks don’t pre-wet any more. You just go ahead and start working the shampoo and the water together. But even if you’re doing it more the old-fashioned way by hand, most of the time we are pre-mixing our shampoo in water. So maybe you do out your dilution ratio a little higher and all of a sudden you can wet the dog down and apply the shampoo at the same time. It doesn’t make a lot of difference in the time as it takes to wet a dog down, but it’s still seconds and minutes add up to hours.

So think about how you can be effective versus just efficient. Efficient means you’re working quickly, you’re hustling, you’re gunning, you are so busy. But if you can be more effective, not only will you be busy, but you’re going to be able to get something done more rapidly in a shorter amount of time. It’s going to be easier for you, it’s going to be easier for the pet and bottom line, everybody’s going to be happy in the long run. So give it a go. Think about the difference between those two words. Are you effective or are you just being efficient?

How Many Dogs Should A Professional Groomer Be Able to Groom?

Melissa Verplank breaks down a frequently-asked question – how many dogs should a grooming professional groom in a day? Tune in to find out Melissa’s metrics for success, and find out how you can improve your speed in the studio!

Want more inspiration? Check out our Online Dog Groomer Training courses or the ALL NEW community at Learn2GroomDogs.com, where you can find hundreds of instructional videos by industry experts, all organized by Skill Level. While you’re there, sign up to be notified when enrollment opens.

Melissa Verplank: Hi, guys. Melissa here. I want to touch base on a question that gets asked a lot and I see it over and over again. It never seems to get old. That question is, how many dogs a day should somebody be able to do on a professional level in a grooming salon? There’s a lot of different right and wrong answers, but bottom line, if you’re looking to be a productive member of a team or you are looking at professional grooming to be a career opportunity and you’re going to rely on the revenue that you’re going to generate to pay your bills, to enjoy life, then pretty much the minimum that somebody needs to be able to do is between six and eight dogs a day.

When I say six or eight dogs a day, I’m not talking about the big, giant furries, the big doodles that are going to take two, two and a half hours to do. I’m talking more about the low maintenance, small to medium sized dogs, kind of no nonsense kind of haircuts. With that type of a trim, that type of a job, you should be looking at being able to turn a dog a minimum an hour. Anywhere between 45 minutes and 60 minutes to do a low maintenance, smaller type haircut. When I say that, I’m talking about the bath, the dry, and the haircut itself. That is the whole enchilada to be able to do under an hour.

If you’re not hitting that mark, you might want to really look at what your skillset is and look at ways that you can start shaving off some time. But bottom line, as an employer looking to hire somebody, that’s what I’m going to expect. If somebody is fresh out of grooming school, you know what? They’re not going to have the confidence to be able to do those numbers right out of the gate. But that’s definitely a target that they should shoot for, whether it be straight out of grooming school, or they’re just learning in an apprenticeship program, or they’re teaching themselves. Don’t beat yourself up.

First you’ve got to master the core skills before you can speed them up. Give yourself a little bit of grace, but work hard and focus on those core skills. That is, how do you bathe effectively? How do you blow dry effectively? How do you get a dog brushed out, combed out so that it’s totally mat-free? How do you clipper efficiently? What type of tools and skills do you need to master to be able to be efficient with what you’re doing?

I have a saying that I want to see a dog be absolutely super smooth in three passes of the clipper or less. If you’re having to go over, and over, and over, and you’re not getting a smooth finish, then you need to look at your technique when you’re dealing with clipper work. If you’re not being able to brush a dog out efficiently, and when I say efficiently, there’s no hardcore rule of how long does it take to brush a dog out, especially if it’s got mats and tangles in it, because every dog is different. Every dog has got a different tolerance level of what they will accept in the brushing department and how tight are those mats and tangles.

You’ve got to take a number of things into consideration, but there’s still shortcuts that you can do. If you’re not letting the products like the shampoo do a lot of the work for you or your high velocity dryer to loosen those mats up, to blow those mats and dead coat out of a dog, there’s a time saving area that you can really focus on. Even though a dog might be super, super matted, it still shouldn’t take that long to get it brushed out. Even if you’re doing a salvage type job where you still have got to trim the dog down, but you’re trying to keep maybe an inch of coat, there’s tricks and techniques like cutting some of that coat off so you’re not having to bathe all of it, or blow all of it out, or to de-mat all of it. There’s a lot of different things that you can do to help really speed up the process.

But when you start looking at enhancing your speed, you don’t want to sacrifice quality. You’ve always got to keep compassion for the pet absolutely at the forefront of everything that you’re doing and to keep the quality so that that client is going to come back and have you work with them again. Because the whole key with professional grooming is building that repeat clientele base. You can work on your speed, you can work on maintaining quality so that those clients come back, and building up a strong client base so that you have a solid foundation to work from. But when I’m looking at people that are really, really productive…

Shoot, we just had a record day at one of my companies, I want to say, just before Thanksgiving. One of the stylists, and she’s a certified master groomer and she’s been doing this for a lot of years, but she did 16 or 17 dogs by herself. Now, I will say she had an assistant, so she had a bather and somebody was helping her get those dogs prepped. But still, to be able to do those types of numbers, you have to be so focused on what you’re doing. You are not looking away from your table. You are not talking to your fellow groomer. You’re not checking your phones. You are absolutely on task, on focus. That dog on your table is what you’re looking at. If you really stay focused, you’re going to be able to build up your speed. Again, you’re not looking to do it overnight. This is a small, incremental, stay focused, stay on task. If right now you’re struggling to get through four dogs, your target should be to get to five dogs. If you’re being able to do five, then look to move to six.

Just take it one dog at a time, one day at a time, but stay focused and help to master those skills so that you, too, are going to be able to comfortably do six or eight or more dogs a day, every single day that you are grooming and you are at your grooming table. That’s going to make you be a really valuable team member if you’re working in a salon situation. Or if you’re are solo flyer, it’s going to help build your business and make sure that you’re going to have the revenues at the end of the week or the end of the month to pay your bills. That’s what professional pet grooming is all about; being able to love what you do and make a living at it.

Melissa Talks About Slicker Brushes

Melissa Verplank discusses various kinds of slicker brushes. Tune for Melissa’s favorite brushes, which brush to use when, and how to maximize a dog’s comfort – and your own!

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Melissa Verplank: Hey, guys. Melissa here, and right now I want to talk to you a little bit about slicker brushes.

There’s a lot of different brushes out there, and the slicker brush is just one of the styles that we use. And it’s a really popular brush in professional pet grooming. As many styles as there are, even within the slicker brush family … I don’t have that many here to show you, but I want to give you an idea of what I look for and what I like when I’m looking at a slicker brush and how to work with it so that not only are you keeping the dog comfortable and safe, but it’s also being effective.

So the first type that we see on a really regular basis is just a normal, everyday slicker brush. It’s got a flat back here. It’s got the pad of the little needle-type teeth or tines, and they will vary. The teeth will vary a little bit. The times will vary a little bit in length, based on the slicker brush that you’re looking at and how soft or firm the pad of the bristles are. So those are just a couple things that you would be looking for.

This one happens to be a very soft back slicker brush. So it’s really super for sensitive skin dogs, small dogs, puppies. This particular one, when they’re a little softer like this, they’re really great for fluffing, especially if the dog doesn’t have any mats in it.

The other thing when we’re looking at the slicker brushes is, a lot of times they’ll come in a variety of different sizes. I want to say this particular one by Chris Christensen, it comes in, I think, three different sizes. There’s one size smaller than this one, and then I think there’s one size larger. But all of them have got this nice, soft backing on them so that the bristles aren’t very soft, and it’s a very gentle brush to work with.

The next type … This one is what I would consider my personal workhorse for a slicker brush. It has longer bristles on it. The other thing that makes this brush a little bit different than many of the others is the curved back. And I don’t really care what brand we’re looking at. What I look for is that curved back piece right here, that’s really important to me, and then the actual length of the bristles right here.

Now, when you’re working with a curved back slicker brush, a lot of times it can be easier to work with because of that curved back, and you don’t have a tendency to poke the dog. And any of us that have worked with slicker brushes for any amount of time, we all know what it feels like when you get one of those bristles, one of those little needle-type bristles, underneath your fingernail. Oh, man, can it hurt. Well, if it hurts us, it’s going to hurt the dog as well. So there’s definitely a way to work with these brushes. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing with a flat back, the curved back, or the next one that I’m going to show you, which has a flexible head on it, you have to work with them in a manner that keeps the dog safe and comfortable. And we’re going to go into that.

But the other thing, before I put this brush down and show you the last of style that I have … But this one has got pretty pretty firm but flexible teeth or bristles on it. So this is going to be a little bit more of an aggressive type brush, but it’s also just a really great workhorse for a wide variety of coat types. For me personally, this style of curved back slicker brush is my all-time favorite slicker brush to use on everyday pet grooming.

The last style that I want to show you is the type of brush … They come in a couple different sizes. But you’ve got just the single head or the dual head. And they have teeth or bristles on both sides. So you can flip the brush. You get a full brush, you can flip it around and use it the other way, on the other side. Sometimes with some of these brushes, the way the teeth are bent will be a little bit different. These look like they’re pretty similar, but where the big differences come with these two brushes is in the head.

And if we’re looking at these two different brushes … And most of the time when you’re looking at these dual type slicker brushes of this style, they’re going to come in a variety of flexible heads. And they’ll have five or six different varieties within a series. But if you look at this one, this head, it’s really tough for me to move this. It’s a really firm, aggressive, tight brush. This would be the type of slicker brush that you would work with on a pretty matted coat or a tangled coat or you’ve got a lot of dead undercoat to pull out. This would be a really great brush to work with on that.

This one, the head is a lot more flexible. It’s super simple to move back and forth. So as you are working and padding on the coat and the skin, it’s going to have a tendency to flex, and you’d be able to power through with a lot more comfort. I don’t want to say necessarily “power through.” But to work with a brush, you can get through a lot of different coat. But the more flexible the heads are, the softer, the more gentle the brush is going to be. So to get through a really heavily matted coat, this probably isn’t going to be your choice. You’re going to be wanting to look for a head that might be a little bit more firm, whether it be the firmest in this particular line or whether it be the softer. But whatever it is, these are great.

The other thing is, they come in the different sizes. So this one is going to be really wonderful for a larger dog, where you’ve got more volume that you have to get through. This’ll be a great choice on that one. Or if you’re working on a smaller dog or a tight space, maybe an armpit or inside the thighs or behind the ears, you don’t need a lot of surface area. You just need to be able to get into that tight little area. The smaller brush is going to work a lot easier for you.

So those are the different styles of brushes that we’re going to be looking at basically. And again, there’s a lot of varieties out there. So find a brand that you like, toss it out there, talk with your coworkers, network with other groomers, whether it be in person or whether it be in social media. But find out who likes what because there’s a lot of choices out there.

Now when you’re actually working with a brush, the method that I want to see is what I would consider a pat, pull method. And I use my forearm. I’m trying to pull my sleeve up here for you. But I want to see a pat and pull away, pat and pull away. And like I said before, these tines, they’re sharp. And if you are just making contact with a couple of them, it can really be uncomfortable. Where if you make contact with the entire pad, there’s no discomfort whatsoever. So it’s really important to pat and pull away, pat and pull away.

And when you do pat and pull away, the other thing is no break in your wrist. If you break your wrist, that’s going to cause a lot of problems for the dog. So you don’t want to go in, pat, and then break your wrist, and pull away. Because I think you can see here, if you pat and then … See how that’s poking at the top end? And I can tell if somebody doesn’t have good technique because the top row of these bristles, the tines here will be really broken down. Sometimes they’ll be missing. And if I see that on somebody’s brush, I know that they are brushing improperly. And a lot of times you can tell because the dog is giving you a hard time. The dog is uncomfortable.

If the dog is really struggling with you, stop and look at what your technique is because you might be accidentally … I mean, none of us want to hurt a dog, but you might be causing them quite a bit of discomfort because of your brushing technique. And the other thing is, it’s very soft. You’re hanging onto these brushes with just a couple of fingers. You can hang onto these brushes any way you want. This way, this way, this way. There’s a lot of different ways, based on the area that you’ve got to get into, that you can hang on to these brushes. But the key with all of them is, don’t power grip. What you want to do is just hold it very softly, very gently with your fingers, and pat, pull, pat, pull.

It’s going to be the momentum and the fact that you’re taking very small amounts. It’s called line brushing or line combing. And that’s where you literally hold the coat up, and then just work a very small amount of coat. You’ll actually see a seam line down to the skin. And you just brush it until it pulls through smoothly, and then you pull down another little section. But working with a slicker brush, if you are brushing properly, it should be very soft, very gentle, very methodical. And if you’re doing it well and the dog has been trained right, it should be very comfortable and relaxing for them.

We see a lot of dogs that get groomed on a very regular basis. They’ve actually been table trained to lie down. And I have seen a lot of dogs that have to go through a lot of brushing just to maintain their coats that literally they’re so comfortable, they fall asleep on the grooming table. So brushing doesn’t have to be painful. It doesn’t have to be uncomfortable for the dog, but it will take time. And it just depends on what type of condition that dog is in, whether you can brush the coat easily or whether it’s going to take a little bit more elbow grease.

But make sure that whenever you are working that you’re doing a very soft pat, pull, pat, pull, and you’re pulling away from the skin. If you can hear this, that means you’re brushing too hard, and even my forearm is going to get a little bit red in there because I’ve just irritated it. So if I pat and pull, you can’t hear anything. And that’s exactly the type of technique that you want to have when you’re working with the dogs. You want to keep those dogs safe. You want to keep them comfortable, and you want to be effective with what you’re doing.

So take a look at the different slicker brushes that you have in your arsenal. There’s a lot of different ones, and they can be very specific. They’re going to help you get through different coat types, different types of breeds. And like I said, every dog has got a little bit different tolerance level for the brushing, but brushing doesn’t have to be difficult. It doesn’t have to be uncomfortable for the pet. So keep those pets safe, keep them comfortable, and just find the brush that’s going to work best for you and the situation on that particular dog.

How Many Clients Does One Groomer Need??

Melissa Verplank has an interactive video this week — bring a pen and paper! Find out how to calculate exactly how many clients you need, and when you need to see them. The answer may surprise you!

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Melissa: Hi guys, Melissa here, and today I want to talk about the importance of rebooking and the impact it can have on your schedule. This is going to be an interactive video. What I want you to do is make sure that you’ve got something to write with pen or a pencil and a piece of paper. And if you don’t have those handy, go ahead and pause the video. I’ll wait for you. Cool, you got it. All right.

What I want you to do is I want you to write these numbers down as I’m talking about them. And keep in mind, this is just a really general formula and you can plug in whatever numbers you really want, but this is just an everyday, average kind of formula to give you an idea of how many customers you need to stay active all year round for one stylist.

The first thing we’re going to do is we’re going to look at the number of dogs that you do on average. Let’s say you’re doing on average six dogs every single day, and you’re grooming five days a week. Okay, that gives you about 30 appointments every single week that you need to fill.

And now the next thing we’re going to do is take a look at how many weeks you’re going to work per year. Most folks are going to take hopefully a two-week vacation for themselves, at least a two-week vacation. What you’re going to do is take that 30 number, those are the appointments that you’re going to have every single week, and you’re going to times that by 50. And what that’s going to do is it’s going to give you 1500, all right? That is the number of annual appointments you need every single year to be busy.

All right, that’s a solid number. Now we’re going to take that 1500 number and we’re going to divide it by nine. Why nine? Because hopefully with any luck, you have been successful in educating your customers of the importance of regular grooming for their pet and you’re going to be seeing those clients every six weeks, at least every six weeks. And so that’s how we come up with nine.

If you take a six-week, rescheduled dog, you’re going to see it about… It’s actually 8.6, I think, but we’re going to round it up because most of the time you can push an extra holiday appointment in there. You’re going to be seeing those dogs nine times a year. If we are taking that 1500 and dividing it by nine, you end up with 167. That’s all. 167 appointments, or clients, not appointments, clients is what you need every single year to keep your book filled.

And that’s again, that’s just an average. Let me roll through these numbers for you one more time really quickly. Say you’re doing six dogs a day, you’re working five days a week, that’s going to give you three appointments every week you need to fill your book. You are going to take that 30 appointments and times it by 50 weeks a year that you’re going to be working. That’s going to give you 1500 appointments annually you need to keep your appointment book filled. Now you’re going to divide that by nine and that is a finding out how many six-week clients you have on your roster. That’s how many times you’re going to see that client each year. You’re going to take that 1500 and divide it by nine and that’s going to give you 167 clients that you need to keep your appointment book filled every single year.

Now, why is this information important? Well, it’s more important so you can project out what your growth rate is, whether you want to add maybe another stylist to your team. Or if you’re a solo stylist, how long is it going to take you before you are filled so that you can either start raising your prices or closing your book to new customers. It’s really important for planning to know, to have an idea, to have a roadmap of what it’s going to take, what do you need to keep your book filled all year round?

That’s all it is, 167 clients. That’s what you need. Not such a hard target to shoot for, is it? Just make sure that you’re educating your customers on the importance of rebooking on a regular basis, at least every six weeks.

Happy Feet Make Happy Groomers

Join Melissa Verplank for some great tips about grooming footwear! Just like finding the right pair of shears, good shoes are crucial when in the dog grooming industry. Melissa shares some of her favorites.

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Melissa: Hey guys. Melissa here, and today I want to talk to you a little bit about one of the really important parts of our body, and that is our feet. You’re going, “Yeah right. Feet, Melissa. What about our hands?” I know. As groomers, our hands are so critical to what we do, but I’m going to tell you what. I have had hand problems throughout my career, and I’ve also now having feet problems for the past couple of years, and I will take a hand problem any day over a foot problem, because if you don’t have your feet feeling good, you can’t do much else. You can’t be active, and you certainly can’t stand for long periods of time with any type of comfort.

So I want to talk to you a little bit about maybe how to better take care of your feet. This is definitely a situation where do as I say, not as I did, because way back in the day when I was standing for hours at a grooming table, I was in Mobile in the summertime, didn’t have good air conditioners, and one of the most comfortable things for me was to just be barefoot. So I was grooming barefoot. I know. Crazy. Luckily I never had clippers or scissors drop on my feet, and I never had a problem with embedded hairs.

But bottom line, down the road, as I’ve aged, and now I’m in my mid to late fifties, my feet are taking a beating. I’m sure it doesn’t help that I play with horses as well quite a bit, and over the years I’ve been stepped on more than I care to admit, and probably had more broken bones in my feet, due to the horses. But it adds up to now I definitely have foot problems, and today I really battle plantar fasciitis. I’ve had it in both feet, I’ve been able to get over it, but it is a bear, it’s frustrating, and it’s extremely painful to the point when you first get out of bed, and anybody that’s had plantar fasciitis knows this, that it hurts the worst in the morning and getting out of bed can be really, really painful. For a time period, I’ve even had crutches right beside my bed because I absolutely could not put weight on my foot.

So I want to talk to you a little bit about taking care of your feet, getting those good shoes, good support shoes on your feet and using them. But just like shears, there’s a big difference between what’s going to feel good to me and what’s going to feel good to you. And just as with shears, I always encourage you to try shears on at trade shows, find out how they’re working, because there’s a lot of different styles of shears, there’s different shears for different purposes, shoes are no different. So I really encourage you to get into those shoe stores and try shoes on, take them for a test spin around the store, around the mall, whatever it may be, and find something that is a good fit for you.

And because I say something is a great shoe, it might be a great shoe for me and really comfortable and solve my problems, but it might not work necessarily for you. So get out there and take a look at what’s out there, but today I just want to share with you some of the shoes and some of the things that I have found that have really helped support me and allow me to maintain an active lifestyle. And it is between shoes and inserts, and back when I was first dealing with all of this, I went to the specialist and he said, “No more cute shoes for you.” Well, he was right, and I was certainly not looking forward to dealing with strictly orthopedic style shoes, and over the years I’ve been able to find some things that, okay, I can’t wear high heels anymore, but they’re still relatively attractive and they’re really comfortable and offer great support.

So I do have a very wide foot, and as I said, I deal with plantar fasciitis. I don’t have the longest foot. I wear about a seven, seven and a half shoe size, and like I said, I’ve been dealing a lot with plantar fasciitis, so I am looking for a lot of arch support with the shoes that I look for. One of the first shoes that really solved a lot of my problems was Vionic. And the Vionic, I have these slippers, and this is what I will get into first thing in the morning.

What I love about it is it has a really deep heel cushion. It has good arch support. I like the fact that, it’s black so you really can’t see very well, but it’s a slide on shoe, so you can wear it with socks or barefoot. It also has a rubber sole on it, so if I am running outside real quick, I can wear these if I’m just going out for short amount of times, but for the most part these are what I wear in the house and they are super comfortable. I wear them for when I first step out of bed, and if I’m working in the house, they are what are on my feet all day.

I am definitely a sandals kind of a gal in the summertime. Vionic also has a great sandal type shoe. These are my old ones. I’ve almost worn them out. I’m really due for a new one, but I mean, relatively stylish for a orthopedic type shoe. Again, a really deep heel bed, good arch support, great cushion all the way through the shoe. Good treads on the underside. I have walked long, long days in these shoes. Ann Arbor Art Fair. Anybody that’s in Michigan knows, the Ann Arbor Art Fair, knows how much walking on concrete that is. These shoes have gotten me through that.

Another sandal that I really love is the OluKai, I think is what you call it, and these come in a lot of different colors. Again, a good supportive heel bed, nice arch support, good cushion all the way through the shoe. Love this shoe. Can walk for hours with this shoe, and again, comes in a lot of different styles.

Now for work, you’re going to be looking at something that’s probably going to cover your toe. These are a clog that I actually got at a dog grooming trade show, and I love this shoe. It’s got really nice support all the way through. It’s got a little bit of a heel, but not too much of a rise, so I can actually wear them and not feel like I’m going to fall off the shoe. One of the things that I love about their clogs, and they’ve got good tread resistance here, and they have an insert that you can either, use their insert, which has got pretty nice support in it, great cush, or you can put in your own insert, whatever’s going to work well for you.

Most of the time what I see groomers working in is tennis shoes of some sort, and I was at a trade show recently, and one of my followers, Martin, you know who you are, suggested this after he watched me speaking and he knew that I was having some issues with my feet. He could tell that I hurt. And he said, “Melissa, have you ever tried Ohka?” I’m not sure if I’m saying that right. It is O-H-K-A and it is actually a running shoe. And right after that trade show I went out, I searched out a shoe store that had these and I bought myself a pair. Definitely a little on the pricey side, but so worth it. Oh my gosh. I feel like my feet are on pillows or on clouds. It is a running shoe, but for anybody that’s standing for long hours at a time and needs some good support, I cannot wait to get up in the morning and put these shoes on. I love them. I can’t believe how much they have helped me.

And some of the other tennis shoes that people really like, New Balance puts out a nice one. Vionic also puts out a nice tennis shoe with great support. There’s a lot of different ones out there. Merrell, some people like Merrells. Other people like Keens. Again, you’ve got a lot of different styles and brands out there that are going to help you and give your foot the stability that you need to be able to stand for a long period of time and not break your foot down. It’s also going to play up through your back as well. If your feet are comfortable, your back is comfortable.

A couple other things that I just want to say before I close this out is if you don’t want to go for the full shoe, sometimes inserts work really well, and I’m going to tell you I started with these. These are Power Steps, and there are two different types of inserts. What I am finding with my inserts is I like something that’s got a little bit more solid on the underside and it’s a little bit more molded. There’s still some flexibility in this, but it’s pretty solid. I look for inserts now that have got the great arch support. I also look for inserts that have got heel cushion and a lot of times, I have another one here, these two are Power Steps and this one is a Walk hero, and the Walk Hero has got not only some heel cushion but also has cushion here and good cushion through this part as well.

And these are going to fit into any shoe. So here, just beat up tennis shoes, but this is just a cheap shoe. I’m not even sure what the brand is, but it’s been used a lot, and I have worked with the insole, the Power Step in these tennis shoes. It’s worked really, really well. The New Balance, somebody suggested this shoe to me. I tried it, didn’t particularly care for the inserts, put in one of my power step inserts, and this shoe has worked really well for me. I do live on a large acreage and it gets muddy. It’s nasty. And so I have my Muck Boots that I love, and I’ve ended up putting my Walk Hero insert into this boot, and it has allowed me to walk all over the property with relative comfort.

So those are just some ideas. But take care of your feet. Like I said, I have had hand issues. I’m just really prone to any kind of inflamed tendon, tendonitis, whether it be my feet, my hands, my elbows. I don’t know why. I work with that through diet, and that’s a whole nother issue or topic to talk about, but take care of your feet, because if your feet feel good, you’re going to feel good. You’re going to be able to do a better job. You’re going to be able to focus on what you’re doing at the grooming table, and longterm, if you want to be at this for quite a while, you need to learn to start taking care of yourself a lot earlier than probably I did. But even if you hurt now, there’s definitely some solutions. Get out there. Find something that works for you and stick with it. So good luck finding something that allows you to stand all day on your feet and do what you love to do, which hopefully is grooming a whole lot of puppies.

Wellness – Make Time for It!

Melissa Verplank is back with some advice on how to make time for your own wellness. Groomers are occupational athletes — take care of yourself and invest in your well-being!

Want more inspiration? Check out our Online Dog Groomer Training courses or the ALL NEW community at Learn2GroomDogs.com, where you can find hundreds of instructional videos by industry experts, all organized by Skill Level. While you’re there, sign up to be notified when enrollment opens.

Melissa: Hi guys, Melissa here. And recently I just read something that really resinated with me and I don’t know whether it’s because I’m getting older or whether the folks that I’m hanging around, we’re all kind of aging at the same point and we’ve got some ailments that I know that if I were to go back and talk to my 20 year old self, I’d be like, are you crazy? Why are you doing these types of things? There’s better ways. There’s easier ways and you’re going to be really sorry if you don’t start taking care of yourself early on instead of waiting, and all of a sudden you’ve got pains that now you’ve got to deal with. And so the phrase that I just read and it just really rung so true, was if you do not make time for wellness, then you will be forced to make time for illness.

And I can’t tell you how true that phrase is. Stop and think about it. And from a grooming standpoint, Dr. Matt, who’s my chiropractor, he told me years ago, Melissa, you are an occupational athlete. That’s what you do. I’ve been in your salons, I’ve seen what students do, I’ve seen what your professionals do, and you guys, you’re getting a workout every single day that you stand at that grooming table. You’re bending, you’re twisting, you’re lifting. So true. And so what are some things that you can do today? If I were to go back and talk to myself 30 years ago, what would I be saying to myself? And it’s not that I would listen necessarily, but I just want to kind of plant a seed. If you’re younger and you’re invincible, like I was when I was in my twenties, you might just want to think twice about certain things that you’re doing.

And the first thing I would say is know your limitations. Know your limitations from a physical standpoint. How much can you lift comfortably? How much can you pull and how much can you physically deal with? Know what those limitations are. And again, like I said, when we’re in our twenties, we’re invincible. When we’re in our thirties, we’re starting to go, hmm, I’m not so sure about that. When we’re in our forties it starts to catch up with us. By the time we’re in our 50s and our 60s, oh yeah, we’re starting to pay for it. Just think about longterm, what you’re doing today and how it’s going to affect you. For me, my biggest thing is I probably shouldn’t have been out lifting my own weight. I was really proud of the fact I was strong enough that I could do that. Today, I’d be like … Either I’d be … I was running mobile at the time, so I really, I didn’t have a whole lot of help, but I would either ask owners to help or if I was in a salon situation, I’d be asking for team lifts.

I wouldn’t be so proud of the fact that I could out lift my own weight in a dog to get it up under the grooming table or into a tub. The other thing is know your limitations with the personality types that you can deal with, whether it be dogs or whether it be cats. Some people really gravitate to the challenging pets. Other people don’t, but know what your limitations are, because our hands are our livelihood and if you are uncomfortable working with a challenging pet, they sense that. They can read that energy and they’re going to be even more naughty for you.

And yet other people can go in and they have just got that calm, cool demeanor and it just settles that pet right down and they can work with really challenging pets and do it safely. And so again, just know what your limitations are and don’t push beyond what you’re comfortable with. The other thing I would say is invest in yourself from an equipment standpoint. If you have the ability to make sure that you are working with tables that go up and down, whether they’re hydraulic or electric. If you have choices of bathing stations so that you’re not having to bend over as much, depending on again what size of a dog you’re dealing with or a cat that you’re dealing with. Cats are pretty much all one size fits all kind of thing, but dogs, oh my goodness, you’re running the gamut from the little tiny three pounders all the way up to 150 to even 200 pounds.

I still remember trying to get a Bullmastiff into the tub by myself and that was a tough feat. Luckily the dog was relatively well trained and he would get into the tub by himself, but you still had to help and he was a big dog. I mean, when I put a four foot kennel lead on him, I had less than a foot left. That’s how big his neck was. Different pieces of equipment allow you to handle those variances, whether you’re dealing with a teeny tiny Yorkie or that big Mastiff, your equipment is going to allow you to deal with it the most ergonomically way possible so that you’re not putting undue strain on your back. And again, lift with your knees, not so much with your back. That was another thing I was really guilty of.

I would just bend over and pick a dog up. I wouldn’t bother lifting with my knees. Well, I’ll tell you, years and years of doing that and I now have a fair amount of lower back discomfort unless I’m really careful about what I’m doing. Think about the equipment, think about sheers. Being able to have a really nice pair of shears allows you to minimize how many scissor strokes you’re going to have to take, or flip over to those guard combs. Oh my goodness, they make it so much easier to get the more elaborate type trims done on a dog without nearly the amount of work. Or a really powerful, high velocity dryer. Your dryers will, the high velocity dryers will not only dry a coat, but they will also de-shed and de-matte a coat as well.

If you’ve got a really high powered one, you’ve just minimize the amount of brushing that you’re going to have to do. Invest in the equipment that’s going to make your job easier. And number three, support a healthy lifestyle. And there’s going to be a couple of different areas that you really need to think about. I learned again early on that I love food, and it shows. It lands on most of my hips, but I also learned that food is not only your fuel, but it can also be your medicine. And as I was dealing with some of my ailments, and again, back when I was in my twenties, I was invincible. Didn’t need health insurance. Didn’t have it. And I was diagnosed early on with rheumatoid arthritis, which that was hogwash way back then. And I’ve learned, I don’t have rheumatoid arthritis, but what I am prone to is any type of tendinitis, and it’s going to flare up all over, whether it be in my elbow, in my hands, in my feet. It’s a problem.

And so I have had to learn to eat a very anti-inflammatory type diet. And the second that I start to eat foods that trigger that inflammation, I start having a lot of problems and pain. Right now, I am on a keto type diet, which is very, very low carbs. And not only did I want to try it to help reduce weight, but it also almost instantly reduced the pain and discomfort that I had with inflammation. But it had been a journey. I didn’t just like one day flip a switch and go, oh, I’m going to keep my carbs at under 20. I’ve been on a journey for a long time and it took a long time to build up to this, to the point that I went, I could do this. I can eat this way and be happy about it. And that’s where I’m at right now.

But again, it took a long time, and I started playing with this way back in my late twenties and early thirties and so that’s when I really realized that food is not only fuel, but it can also be used as medicine. And then the other thing is get exercise. Now I know as we’re standing at the grooming table, we’re exercising every single day, but you know what? It’s not balanced exercise. Everything that we do is in front of us. And so we’re reaching, we’re pulling, we’re lifting and everything is reaching forward. And a lot of times you’re looking down, so your eye level is looking down. It’s not looking straight forward and it’s not looking up. It’s looking down. And so that ends up putting some problems with your neck. It can … And then all of the reaching forward will have some issues with your shoulders.

It could also have problems with your elbows and with your wrists. A lot of folks have found that if they work with a physical therapist and they figure out exercises and stretches that they can do to counter balance the overuse of the forward motion that we have and really strengthen their back and their shoulders utilizing different moving methods, has made a huge impact on their comfort level when they are standing at the grooming table. And then, it goes without saying get enough rest, get enough sleep, and I know I get it. When you’re running and gunning, it’s darn hard sometimes to get enough rest, to get enough sleep, but it is so critical to your overall wellness so that you can perform at peak levels. And then do yourself some personal maintenance. And today, chiropractic care, massage therapy, I do kinetic massage therapy, which has really helped tremendously and has freed up muscles.

I just get really knotted and really tight. And by going in and having this type of massage therapy done, I can keep myself limber, I can keep myself moving and being active. And life isn’t very fun if you are just totally sedentary. I mean, most of us that are in the grooming world, we’re relatively active folks and we like to do things and there’s nothing worse than getting sidelined, because you just can’t move. And so being able to work with personal maintenance, whether it be going and working out on a regular basis, doing yoga, I don’t care what it is, but take time for that personal maintenance to keep yourself in peak condition. And if you’re not in peak condition, the personal maintenance will allow you to just to keep moving and help slow down the aging effects, because again, when you’re in your 20s and your 30s, you are going.

But once you hit your 40s, your 50s and then you get into your 60s, you’ve got to be really conscious about what you’re doing, and a lot of times your formal lifestyle is going to affect your later years. Again, like I said, if I were to talk to myself, and go back to when I was in my 20s, I would really have some pretty harsh words to tell myself. Take care of yourself. Take a look at … If you’ve got issues today, take a look at what those root causes are. And there is so much that you can do from a holistic level that don’t require medication, that doesn’t require surgery to fix those problems. And medicine is great and for many, in many situations, the medicine that we take is lifesaving.

But for those things that are more just a bandaid, I would much rather get to the root cause and find a solution to it and fix it at the root cause than constantly reaching for a bottle of pain reliever just to get through the day. Figure out what the root cause is and figure out a way to heal yourself, and take the time, invest in yourself. Take the time to learn the different things that you can do to help yourself so that you are not forced to take time to deal with an illness. Be proactive and take care of yourself now so that when you get into your later years, you can really enjoy them.

The Importance of Rebooking Clients

Rebooking can get complicated, but Melissa Verplank’s latest vlog covers the best systems for keeping your grooming schedule on track! Tune in for tips about maintenance programs, client communication, and available tools.

Want more inspiration? Check out our Online Dog Groomer Training courses or the ALL NEW community at Learn2GroomDogs.com, where you can find hundreds of instructional videos by industry experts, all organized by Skill Level. While you’re there, sign up to be notified when enrollment opens.

Melissa: Hi guys. Melissa here, and today I want to talk a little bit about rebooking clients. Now if you guys have followed me for any amount of time, you know that I am a huge advocate of rebooking clients on a really regular basis. I love to see dogs come in every four to six weeks if they’re coming in for full service grooming or bathroom brush. But even better, I love to be able to help clients really keep their dogs in peak condition and getting them onto maintenance type programs, whether it be weekly, every two weeks or every three weeks. But bottom line is you’ve got to educate your customers as to the needs of the individual pet. Some pets really will benefit by being on a coat maintenance program and others not so much. So you have to kind of play it by ear.

But I really love being able to ask that client if they’d like to rebook their appointment at checkout. It gives you a great opportunity to communicate with that customer. And you’ve got to build a couple of different scripts based on the needs of the dog. You know a dog that’s just come in and maybe it hasn’t been groomed in months and you had to totally shave it off. Their needs for rebooking are going to be really, really different than somebody who’s brought in a new puppy. Maybe it’s a Bichon puppy and you’re going to need to educate that client as to the needs of that dog down the road. What’s going to happen with his coat? How often should it be groomed? What is the lifestyle of that pet? So there’s a lot of different things that you need to communicate with that customer to help keep that dog in peak condition.

And it makes sure that it is living up to what the client wants. If they’ve got a whole lot of kids and the dog is out ramming around in a rural setting, it’s probably not going to have a really, really fancy haircut. It’s going to need something that’s a little bit more easier to care for, lower maintenance for the owner. At the same token, if you have an upper echelon type clientele and the dog is going on walks on leashes and it’s on manicured yards, their grooming needs are going to be really different.

So build a couple different scripts, figure out what is going to work best for each individual client based on the lifestyle. And then think about what will help incentivize that client to rebook. At one of my companies, they are very, very price sensitive, so offering a bit of a discount when we ask them if they would like to rebook between six weeks or less. That generally works really well for that clientele.

I have another set of clients that could care less about discounts. They are more concerned about getting what they want when they want it. So the other thing you’ve heard me talk about is it takes well under 200 clients to keep one stylist busy all year round. So if you have a stylist or if you’re one of those stylists that is really in demand, and your appointment book is totally full or it’s hard to get in, that’s a really great way to help incentivize those clients to rebook before they leave so that they get the appointment time when they want it with the stylist that they also want. So those are two different ways to kind of help motivate rebooking at checkout.

Now if the client doesn’t rebook at checkout, then you do what I would call a courtesy call. A reminder call. You’re not being a telemarketer. You’re not being a solicitor. You’re just looking out for the best interest for the client and for the pet. And so if you haven’t seen that dog in five weeks, you don’t have an appointment on the books anytime coming up real soon, those are the clients that you’re going to want to call. So maybe it’s been five weeks and you’re just trying to make sure they stay on a six-week schedule or maybe they’re clients that you haven’t seen for seven or eight weeks. Those are prime candidates to do these courtesy calls and you’re just doing a quick checkup. Just making sure that the pet is doing okay and you were thinking about them and you want to help that client maintain the dog’s coat and keep it in peak condition. And you’d like to be able to get an appointment set so that you can do that for them.

And there’s a lot of different ways. You can either pick up a phone and make a phone call or you can send an email or you can send a text message. It really depends on how you best interact and communicate with your customers. There’s a lot of different ways to do it. But no matter what happens, you really want to encourage those rebook appointments and ideally rebooking six weeks or less. But you’re never going to be able to get clients trained to rebook their appointments if you don’t consistently ask for it. So it’s really important every single time that that client has their dog groomed, at checkout you always ask if you can rebook that client right then and there. And if they don’t rebook, make a note in your computer system, on your client file, however you maintain it. Have some type of a system so that you automatically rebook and implement the rebooking situation.

Way back when, in Mobile, we had to do this because we had to route our trucks and we wanted to make sure that our stylist were grooming and not driving. And so we wanted to be very efficient with our routing. And so we always, we maintained a list, and it was sorted by the number of weeks that we last saw the client and then also by the map coordinates. And we were able to book clients very, very efficiently, keep them on that rotation, keep them with the stylist that they really preferred at the time that they wanted.

And you know what, for a lot of people in the northern hemisphere, normally, especially if you are in a snowbelt area, January and February can be really, really slow. Everything slows down. And what we did is we were very, very efficient between the holiday offering rebooking and making sure that we touched base with those customers, and we were able to get those clients that all had their dogs booked over that holiday season to rebook in January and February. And amazingly we weren’t even that slow, because we were so efficient with rebooking.

So I certainly challenge you. If you don’t have a rebook system in place, a system to be automatic with your rebooking to make sure that you’re asking every single client and that you’re implementing the system every single time, I challenge you to do so because it is the best way to stay full. And when you’re asking those clients if they want to rebook, that you don’t ask them if. You’re asking them when would you like your next appointment, or your calling to book the dogs or cats next appointment. Just assume that they’re going to take that appointment. And you know what? Even if they don’t, you’ve planted a seed and that seed has, it’ll start to fester. They’ll start thinking about it, and even if on our courtesy calls, they don’t book when we call or when we leave a message, most of the time, I would say well over half of those clients will end up calling us in the next week or two to rebook that appointment simply because we planted the seed.

So definitely implement a rebooking system for your clientele, and I guarantee you’re going to build your clientele faster and you’re going to have more consistent bookings down the road.

The Value of Repeat Clientele

How often do you see your clients? Melissa Verplank has a new vlog about how to educate your customers and create the best rebooking schedule possible.

Want more inspiration? Check out our Online Dog Groomer Training courses or the ALL NEW community at Learn2GroomDogs.com, where you can find hundreds of instructional videos by industry experts, all organized by Skill Level. While you’re there, sign up to be notified when enrollment opens.

Melissa: Hi, guys. Melissa here, and today I want to talk about the importance of the frequency that you’re seeing your clients and the impact that it’s going to have on your bottom line. We’re going to be looking at it from how often you see that client in between groomings and how many times a year you’re going to see that client, and then again taking a look at on an annual basis what the income potential is and over the lifespan of the pet, what the income potential is. So if you don’t have a pencil and paper handy, I certainly going to encourage you to have something that you can jot these numbers down as I’m talking because I want you to be able to go back and plug in your own numbers into this formula. I’m going to use some really basic numbers just to get you going, but you can plug in your own numbers. So go ahead, grab that pencil and paper. If you don’t have it, I’ll wait for you. Got it? Cool. So let’s go ahead and get started.

Now, I want you to take a look at … we’re just going to start with a frequency level. So if you’re dealing with a client every eight weeks, it doesn’t get groomed on a real high frequency level but it does get groomed regularly, you’re going to see that client about six, six and a half times a year, and the revenue that that’s going to generate over the course of one year at a $50 ticket price. Again, I certainly hope you’re charging a little bit more than that, but we’re keeping it simple. So $50 average ticket price, that client is going to bring you about $300 over an annual basis or about $3,000 if you’re dealing with that client for about 10 years, the lifespan of a dog or a cat. And now if we bump it up and you’re seeing that client every seven weeks, now you’re going to be seeing that client about seven times a year. Again, at that average ticket price of $50, it’s going to earn you about $350 annually or about $3,500 on a 10-year rotation.

If you see that client every six weeks, and I think every six weeks is probably the most common rebook appointment that we have, and if you are rebooking every six weeks, it works out to you’re going to see that client about 8.6 times a year. But generally speaking, if you’re working in the holidays, you can get one more appointment out of the client. And so let’s just say you’re going to see that client nine times year. Again, average ticket price $50, it’s going to earn you about $450 annually or about $4,500 over the lifespan of the pet.

Now, if we start bumping it up a little bit again, again, just going week by week, so every five weeks, you’re going to see that client about 10 times a year, so that client is going to earn you about $500 annually or $5,000 over the lifespan of the pet. And if you can get that client to go every four weeks, awesome. That is really helping your bottom line, and you’re going to see that client about 13 times a year and that client is going to bring in about $650 into your business every single year or about $6,500 over the lifespan of the pet.

Now, I want to take this one step further. Let’s say maybe you think about a coat maintenance program, and if you’re doing a coat maintenance program, you’re seeing them even more frequently, and so let’s just say you’re seeing them every two weeks. Well, a lot of times if you’re seeing them that frequently, you’re also going to offer them a bit of a discount to the grooming. What we’ve done, and this has worked really well for us, is we drop the price pretty substantially. Let’s just say we’re going to $28 every two weeks. Now I want you to figure, I want you to see what happens here.

If you drop to a two-week rotation, you’re seeing that dog about 26 times a year. The dog is in phenomenal shape. You’re not, lot of times you’re not always doing a groom on it. You can rotate it around and make it work into your schedule so that sometimes you’re just doing a bath and a brush and a heavy neaten on it, sometimes you’re doing a full haircut or whatever. You can mix it up because you’re seeing it so frequently, but at 28 bucks, now on an annual basis at $50, that client is going to, or not $50, at $28, that client is going to bring in about $728 annually. That’s a big jump.

I mean, even if we’re looking at the four-week client, they’re bringing in about $650, so you’ve just reduced the price so that the client is more encouraged to bring the dog in on a really regular basis. The dog is in phenomenal shape and you get to kind of adjust it based on your needs on your schedule. Sometimes you just get really, really busy and maybe you don’t have time to do a full trim. That’s where these dogs, you can juggle them around and put them where you need to. But bottom line is they’re going to bring in a higher revenue even at a reduced price, so $728 on an annual basis. And if you look at it over the lifespan of the pet, you’re looking at $7,280 is what that client represents to you on a regular basis.

So I want you to think about how rebooking your clients and educating the customer as to the importance of rebooking can really impact your bottom line. And today with the products and the tools that we have, dogs can even be done weekly or even more so. The best coat is a well-maintained coat, and so use gentle products. The more frequently you’re seeing the dogs, you use a really, really general product. But that dog is going to be, or cat is going to be in really great shape. The more frequently you can see them, the better you can service that customer. So take a look. Do the math for yourself. Figure out what it means to you to see those clients on a super regular basis.

Invest In Yourself & Your Equipment

Your equipment makes an impact! CMG Melissa Verplank discusses why investing in yourself shouldn’t be an afterthought, and how even her clients noticed when she invested in top-shelf shears.

Want more inspiration? Check out our Online Dog Groomer Training courses or the ALL NEW community at Learn2GroomDogs.com, where you can find hundreds of instructional videos by industry experts, all organized by Skill Level. While you’re there, sign up to be notified when enrollment opens.

Melissa: Hi everybody, Melissa here and today I want to ask you a question and that question is, when was the last time that you invested in yourself or invested in your equipment that would help move your career ahead? I learned early, early on, and I’m really thankful that I did, but I had heard a phrase somewhere that said something like, “Knowledge is going to lead you to success, but having the best equipment certainly is going to give you the edge to get there faster.” Very early in my career I realized that I always needed to invest in myself and invest in my equipment. When I was first starting out, just like all of you, shoot, I measured everything in dog numbers. How many dogs was it going to take to get that pair of shears or that clipper or that high velocity dryer or that table … Whatever it might be.

I measured everything in dog numbers and I’m sure I bet a lot of you guys can relate. But the first time that I got that super high end pair of shears, I think it might’ve been a pair of Guides, they were some of the forerunners to the high end sheers that are just beautiful and we have a lot of choices today, but Guide was one of the first ones. And I got that first pair of shears and I still remember working on a Soft Coated Wheaton Terrier. And it was a Guard Comb on the body and the legs were scissored. And I felt really good when I finished that dog and I felt I had done it quite quickly too, which was really surprising. But the legs looked amazing and I didn’t do anything different other than use a different pair of shears.

I was feeling really good about the dog. And when I brought the dog in, I didn’t say a word, I just presented the dog like normal. And the client just was stood back and looked and was like, “Wow, Melissa, I don’t know what you’ve done today, but I’ve never seen him look so good. And you did it quicker than you’ve ever done it. Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.” Well man, I’ll tell you that just sent me right through the roof there I was on cloud nine somewhere. But it really validated the importance of … And what kind of an impact your equipment can have and the type of quality that a nice piece of equipment can do for you. So stop and think about it. And if you have not invested in yourself recently and treated yourself to a new … Whatever it might be, something to help move your career forward, whether it be a piece of equipment, whether it be a piece of software, maybe it’s a course, maybe it’s a book, maybe it’s just taking time for you to learn a little something, anything to help move your career forward.

But I cannot encourage you enough to invest in yourself and invest in the equipment that makes it easy for you to do your job. You are going to be so much happier every single day that you step up to that grooming table with every dog that you do. Having the best equipment to select from and to choose from to make that dog look amazing, is also going to make you look amazing and it’s going to move your career ahead a lot faster as well.

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