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Vlog

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.

Fair Pricing – The Large Dog

In this video, Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank discuses the challenge of fair pricing. Do you sometimes feel like you’re not getting ahead, despite a full roster of grooms? How are you pricing you “big dog” jobs – the Standard Poodle and Doodles and other time-intensive grooms? Learn how to tweak your pricing structure to get ahead of the game.

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Transcript
Melissa V: Melissa V.: Hi, guys, Melissa here, and I want to talk to you a little bit about pricing. No matter where we go, what group of people we’re talking to, pricing is always a hot topic. I’ve been hearing about it recently. I’ve heard a lot of buzz out in social media, and I thought maybe it’s time to revisit this topic a little bit, and so I want to tell you a story that I had a number of years ago.

We had a couple of stylists, we were having lunch together, and this one particular stylist was frustrated, but as she was telling me about her salon, and she was really proud of the fact she was unbelievably busy, and she was booked out weeks in advance, she was cranking through a lot of dogs every single day, and all of that was really good, but she said, “Melissa, at the end of the day, at the end of the week, I just don’t feel like I’m getting ahead,” and I thought, “Okay, something’s not right here.”

If you are as busy as what you say you are and you’re doing as many dogs as you’re saying you are, you should be doing pretty well. When you’re running that hard and gunning that hard, this is where you make it sometimes to carry you over some of those slower time periods, so I thought, “Something’s not right here,” so I started asking her some questions.

Now, she was a really talented stylist, and she not only did competition level styling, but she was also showing dogs in the confirmation ring. She was a very knowledgeable stylist. Timing of doing the dogs really wasn’t an issue for her. She was being efficient with her time based on the type of trim she was doing, but I said, “What kind of dogs do you see a lot in your salon, and what do you really enjoy doing?” and she said, “Oh, I love Standard Poodles.”

I said, “Okay, I could understand that. You show them. It’s what you’re out in the ring with a lot in the pet grooming competition.” That made sense to me, and I said, “How long does it take you to do one of your Standard Poodles?” and she said, “Oh, depending on the size of the dog, the type of haircut and how often I see it, it could take me anywhere from two and a half hours to three and a half hours from start to finish, and that would include the bath, the dry and the haircut,” and I went, “Okay, and what are you charging for those dogs?” and she said, “Somewhere between 70 and $80,” and I thought, “Oh, okay.” That math wasn’t working out initially in my head, and I thought this potentially could be the trouble spot.

Like I said, she does a lot of these dogs each week. As I’m telling you the story, I want you to realize that we’re not just talking Standard Poodles. We’re talking any big dog. If that is your price point on any big dog, be it a Standard Poodle, a Doodle, anything else, and you’re running between the 70 and $80 mark, and it’s taking you two and a half to three and a half hours to do, there’s an issue.

I said, “Okay, let me ask you a couple more questions,” and I said, “If you were dealing with a smaller dog, say, a Shih Tzu and just a no-nonsense, but cute little trim, how long would it take you to do?” She said, “Oh, about an hour.” I said, “Okay, and what do you charge for that little Shih Tzu?” and she said, “$45,” and I went, “Mm-hmm (affirmative), there’s your issue,” and she looked at me like, “What are you talking about?”

I said, “Let’s take a look at this from a time standpoint. The Shih Tzu takes you about an hour to do, yet… and you’re getting $45 for it. Yet, the Standard Poodle takes you between two and a half and three and a half hours, and you’re getting somewhere between 70 and $80 for that dog. Do you realize that you could do two or three Shih Tzus in the same amount of time it takes you to do that Standard Poodle?” I think that light bulb went off in her head, and she went, “Oh.”

If you were doing two Shih Tzus at $45, that would be $90. With just two Shih Tzus, you’re already above the one larger dog that you’re dealing with, and if you were to do three Shih Tzus, three hours worth of work, you’re going to get about 135 bucks for that same timeframe, so my question is why would you want to do a larger dog that you’re only getting 70 or $80 for when you could do three smaller dogs in the same timeframe and get a lot more cash for it?

Basically, numbers don’t lie, gang, and so I’m going to really challenge you. If you are dealing with those dogs like the Standard Poodles, the Doodles, the big bathroom brush, the big furries, take a look at how long they’re taking you to do and think about it. If you could do three, two or three smaller dogs in the same amount of time, you should be getting at least equal the amount of money, and it’s going to fall through straight to your bottom line.

It doesn’t matter whether you own your own business or whether you work for somebody else and you’re getting a commission. It’s going to fall straight to your bottom line. It’s going to fall straight to your paycheck. It’s going to fall straight down to your profitability if you’re a salon owner, so, if you’ve got those larger dogs that aren’t priced appropriately, I’m going to really encourage you to take a good hard look at your pricing structure and raise those prices, and get them to the point where they’re fair, they’re fair for your salon, they’re fair for you or your staff member to do and, bottom line, gang, it’s fair to the customer.

Honestly, if you’re afraid to raise your prices because you’re afraid they’re going to go somewhere else, and especially if you’re already busy and you’re booked out weeks in advance, wouldn’t you rather do a smaller dog and earn more money for it? I mean, yeah, I get it that the Standard Poodles are really, really pretty and they’re fun to do, but at the same token, you got to pay your bills at the end of the day. We don’t do this profession to lose money. We need to be able to make a fair wage, and I don’t know any professional pet groomer that gouges or overprices for their services. If anything, we underprice what we do, and so put some value on yourself and put some value on the work that you do.

If you’re one of those folks that just doesn’t have anymore bandwidth to give, you’re running and gunning just as hard as you can, take a good hard look at where your pricing structure is, and if you want to reduce the amount of hours that you work while raising your profit levels, raise your prices, but really look at those larger dogs and make sure that they’re priced appropriately.


Doodles are Job Security

In this video, Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank celebrates the business-building blessing of the Doodle. These coat-carrying mixed breeds might be controversial creations among breed purists, but they provide an excellent opportunity to educate pet parents and help them understand the not-insignificant hygiene demands to make Doodles look and feel their best.

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Transcript
Melissa V: Hi guys, Melissa here. I want to talk to you a little bit today about the Doodles. There are so many Doodles. They come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, coat types. There isn’t a whole lot of consistency with a Doodle other than it is almost any purebred mixed with a Poodle. You can have the Labradoodles, the Goldendoodles, the Aussiedoodles, the Bernedoodles. Anything can be mixed with a poodle and it comes out as a Doodle, and with the Poodles, we’ve got such a variety of sizes with the Poodles, we are seeing the Doodles coming out now being small, medium, large. So, they really are running a gamut. But, what I want you to stop and think about, because I know a lot of time when people mention the word Doodle in a professional setting, it brings out probably not the best qualities of us as professionals. I see a lot of frustration, a lot of anger coming out when we start talking about Doodles. And I kind of take a little different stance on it, because I’m really thankful that the Doodle has become some popular. Because, gang, it’s a groomable breed. They require regular maintenance to keep the dogs looking and feeling their best.

If you take a look at the top breeds for the past number of years in the AKC in the United States, folks, most of the dogs that are in the top 10 don’t carry a lot of coat. They aren’t necessarily groomable breeds that require regular haircuts. Yes, the Poodle is in there. Thank heavens the Poodle is in the top 10. The Yorkie is also in the top 10, but I mean, come on. The Yorkie is a little tiny guy. At least the Poodle we’ve got the toy, the miniature, and the standard so we’ve got some variety going on there. But, the point is that, when we’re looking at purebred dogs and when you’re seeing so many in the top 10 that are short coated, and that is also transferring over to many of the mixed breeds. They’re short coated. They don’t require a whole lot of professional grooming in the form of haircuts. So, to have such a wide variety of Doodles with a lot of coat, it’s a blessing to us. I mean, honestly gang, it’s job security. Thank heavens we have these dogs.

But, what I will say is, where the frustration is coming in, at least this is my take on it, is the frustration is coming from the fact that breeders are really preying upon owners being gullible. They’re mixing anything with a Poodle and calling it a Doodle and they’re just riding this wave of this popularity craze, and that drives us crazy. Especially if you are used to dealing with purebreds and very conscious breeders that are trying to improve and enhance a breed. And breeders of Doodles just really don’t seem to ride that same wave. So, to me, that definitely is a frustration point. And I get it. You know, that part drives me a little crazy. It drives me crazy that owners are going to be so gullible and so naïve and they’re just going out and they’re not really researching what they’re getting. You know, you almost have to do more research, because not only do you need to research the Poodle, but you need to research whatever other breed these dogs are being mixed with because now you’ve got that combination of personalities. What are you really getting, and is it going to fit into a family lifestyle that the owners need it to fit into?

To me, that’s where some of the frustration points are. But, I also see it as being an opportunity, because the other thing that breeders don’t seem to do a really great job with consistently, and I’m not saying all breeders, but come on, we see it enough that it poses frustration from a professional standpoint, is breeders aren’t being totally honest with the new pet parent of what kind of maintenance that dog is going to take from a hygienic standpoint. From a brushing, a bathing, and a grooming standpoint. All of a sudden, they’re saying oh, they only need to be groomed once a year or twice a year and we know as pros that are dealing with coat that that is so far from the truth. So, now we’ve got a situation where who does the owner truly trust? The breeder that they just purchased the dog from or the groomer who’s telling them this dog is going to need to be groomed on a very frequent basis? And most of the time, a lot of the Doodles are good size, so this isn’t a small price point for them. And these dogs really need to be groomed every four to six weeks.

So, you got a little bit of an uphill battle, but if you approach it properly and with compassion with the owner and towards the dog, many times you can re-educate and you have an opportunity to turn the Doodle owners into phenomenal clients. Because, come on, these guys are furry. And, whether it be a wire coated type Doodle or a Doodle, I mean, the breeders are saying hey, they’re hypoallergenic. But, come on. You know, they don’t shed. Yeah, how many times have you heard that? Yeah, depending again what they’re mixed with, that’s not necessarily true. So, you’ve got to go in and really be open and honest and caring with the owner and make sure that they understand that you are looking out for the best interest of the pet and the best interest of the owner based on what their lifestyle is and how much they are willing to do in between groomings. I mean, this is no different than any other haircut breed that we do. So, take the time to educate those owners. Turn your frustration into an opportunity to help the pet, to help the pet parent, and be thankful that we are seeing so many Doodles coming through, because almost all of them truly need professional grooming to look and feel their best. And honestly gang, it is job security, number one, for all of us.


There’s No Black and White in Dog Grooming

In this video, Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank discusses a concept that Lisa Leady shared during a www.Learn2GroomDogs.com video shoot: There’s no black and white in grooming, but there’s a lot of gray. In this context, how do you evaluate techniques and products? Melissa suggests answering these questions:
Is it safe for the pet? Is it safe for the groomer? Will it yield a quality product? Will it be efficient?

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Transcript
Melissa V: Melissa here, and I want to share with you a thought process that is kind of a combination of both my thought process and a thought that Lisa Leady shared on one of her Learn to Groom video shoots years ago. And the thought that Lisa shared with me and to our Learn to Groom audience was that there is no black and white in dog grooming. If you’ve ever followed Lisa, you’ve probably heard her say that.

Over the years you’ve heard me say it that there is absolutely no black and white, there is no right or wrong in dog grooming, but what there is, is a lot of shades of gray. So, what you want to think about, and this is where I kind of took her thought process and applied my line of questioning to that. Before I test out any new product, test out any new technique, think about doing something different than what I might have done in the past is I always ask these four questions.

Question number one is, will whatever I’m going to use or do be safe for the pet? Number two is, is it safe for me? Is it safe for the groomer? Is it going to be ergonomically safe for me long term, or is it going to be safe for me from a physical standpoint? So stop and think about that. Number one, is it safe for the pet. Number two, is it safe for you? Number three, will it yield a quality product because if you can’t yield a quality product, you’re not going to have customers coming back for your services. So, number three is going to be, does it yield a quality product? Number four is the question I always, always ask is, will it be efficient? Now, maybe it won’t be efficient the first time I try out a new technique or a new product. I might have to get the feel of it a little bit better, but down the road, will it be efficient if I utilize this product or this technique?

So, there you have it. Those are the four questions that I always ask whenever I’m dealing with the multiple shades of gray that we have with professional pet grooming. It’s:

1. Is it safe for the pet?

2. Is it safe for you?

3. Will it yield a quality product?

4. Will it be efficient?

So, I want you to ask that question every time that you’re thinking about testing out a new technique, looking at a new product, or doing anything a little bit different than what you have normally done before. Sometimes little switched in what you’re doing can make a big impact in your bottom line, but you always want to make sure that it’s safe, that it is going to be efficient, and that it’s going to yield a quality result. If you can answer all four of the questions and get a “yes” answer, try it. That’s one of the beauties of professional pet grooming is there’s lots of ways to do the same thing based on the situation that you’re dealing with on that particular moment.


Learning is a 50-50 Responsibility

In this video, Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank discusses the importance of “bringing your game to the table” when you’re learning to groom dogs. Selecting the best program, instructors, and mentors is half the task. The other half comes from focusing on the instruction you’re given and committing to ongoing improvement. Education is everything! It’s the key to building a successful career in the pet grooming business.

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Transcript
Melissa V: Hi guys, Melissa here. Today I want to talk about how to grow your career, or how to learn. Learning, there’s a lot to it. I don’t care whether you go to the best school available to you, or whether you are self taught, learning takes focus, and it takes dedication.

I always say you can only be as good as who your instructors are. If you are self taught, you’re going to be looking at books, today you’re going to be looking at videos. You can teach yourself. You can learn on YouTube. I mean, how many of us jump onto YouTube when we have a question about something, and we need to figure it out? Yeah, we jump on YouTube.

But I’m going to tell you when it comes to dog grooming, that can be a little bit dangerous because what is out there and available on the Internet, come on, everything is the truth and everything is right on the Internet, right?

Be careful what you look for, and who you follow. It’s not to say that free education isn’t good, but more than likely you’re going to have to pay a little bit of money to get the best teaching, to get the best coaching, whether it be through videos or books or programs, or maybe you go to a formal educational type school. Be careful. Check out your schools that you’re attending, look at what the instructors are because you will only be as good as what your instruction is.

But there’s another side of this, because learning is a 50/50 gig. It doesn’t matter how good your instructors are if you, the learner, don’t bring your full game to the table. If you aren’t dedicated, if you aren’t focused, there is no way that even the best teacher can teach you. You’ve got to be in the game. You’ve got to be there and focus on what you’re dealing with, and learn and absorb it.

Everybody learns at a little different pace. Dog grooming isn’t for everybody, but if it is for you, it’s really a rewarding career, but you’re going have to work at it. There are very few people out there that are just naturally talented, that can just pick up the clippers and sheers and go to town, and do a really good job straight out the gate.

Every school system, every training program has it’s A, B, C, D, and what do we do with those other type students, you know? Even if maybe you weren’t the strongest student in school, it doesn’t mean that you can’t go on and continue your education and get better.

One of our top trainers that we have at the school, and she’s been with me on and off since the early ’90s, I still remember when she was in school and she was … It was a 600 Clock-Hour program she had signed up for, and she was really close to graduating. I happen to walk through the bathing room, and she had a golden retriever on the table. As I walk by, I noticed that the dog was still really sopping wet.

I have always had a phrase that I want the towels to do a large portion of the work before you even begin to turn on the high velocity dryer. So what it told me is that she hadn’t listened throughout the course of the lessons. I mean, here she is close to graduating and as I walk by the golden retriever, I just run my hand down the dog’s leg and I pick up the foot and I give it a soft squeeze and the water literally just runs off the foot into a pool on the table.

I didn’t have to say a word. I know, and she shared with me later, that that was a really hard blow. That was something that she remembers still to this day, years and years later, and she remembered that.

We fast forward another year or two down the road, and I’m looking for an instructor and she comes in and she applies, and I’m thinking to myself, “Oh yeah, she could barely even graduate and here she is applying for an instructor position.” I got to tell you, during her working interview, she blew me away. She worked on a little black and white Shih Tzu in a fuller guard comb type trim, and she absolutely crushed it. That dog was so cute, so well done, that I was amazed. I said to her, “What has happened, what has changed?”

She realized that when she was in school, she really didn’t focus as much as she should have. And when she got out there into the real world, that’s when her real learning started.

Whether you do it in school, which is actually where I would suggest you try because you’ve got your trainers right there, but no matter what, learning is a 50/50 choice. It’s going to 50% be where your instruction comes from, and 50% of what you bring to the table.

Just because you’re at the best school or have the best books or have the best videos, you still have to put it together. It comes from here. It comes from what you bring to the table and what you can do for the dog, how you apply what you have learned.

Gang, I’m going to tell you, it does take practice, practice, practice. And it never stops, you can continue to learn, and it doesn’t necessarily mean just dog grooming. I continue to grow my career. I have books like crazy. I highlight, I tag them. If I flip open my books, they’re all marked up.

No matter what you’re dealing with, mark your books up. I personally am not a fan of the digital books because I can’t mark them up, I can’t write in the margins, I can’t tag the pages.

To really cement something in your mind, one of the best things you can do is write it out longhand for yourself. They say, if you ink it, you think it, and that is so true. For me, that really helps sink a thought, sink the idea in. But I’m always reading with highlighters, I’m always making notes in margins. It doesn’t matter whether I was reading a grooming book, or whether I am working on some other aspect of what I need to learn to run my businesses.

Focus, focus, focus, and always remember, the learner brings half of it to the table. So just think about that when you go in and you learn and realize that some people, learning comes easier than others. And if you’re one of those folks, kind of like what I am, I’m not the fastest study out there, and I really have to work at learning and work at getting it embedded into my brain.

But stick with it, you can do it. But just know, half of it is going to be from the instruction that you receive, and the other half is going to be what you bring to the game to make that lesson stick in your mind.


How To Improve Your Speed with Focused Goal Setting

In this video, Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank discusses ways to improve your speed by tracking your time and starting with the end in mind. She shares her own personal challenge in improving speed on Poodle feet. Learn how to increase your productivity by measuring your progress and celebrating your milestones.

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Transcript
Melissa: Hi guys. Melissa here, and today I want to talk to you a little bit about ways to improve your speed. When we are grooming, every single day, when we’re at a grooming table, it is all about being efficient with our time. It doesn’t necessarily mean to be fast, to be rough, to be abrupt. That’s not what this is about. It’s about being efficient so that we can get the most done in the least amount of time while yielding the best result.

The best result is in the quality of the product that we put out in the way that we handle and interact with the pets that we deal with, as well as dealing with our clients. So, I just really want to emphasize that improving your speed is not about sacrificing anything. It’s about maintaining and actually enjoying what you’re doing even more so because you’re efficient. You’ve got confidence with what you’re doing, and every time you do it, you get consistent results that are yielding quality.

So, the first thing to help you improve speed is you got to know what the end result should look like. What does a quality round head look like? What does a clean well-fluffed dog look like? You’ve got to start with a clear picture of what does it look like when it’s done right. So, whatever technique you’re trying to improve, whatever thing you’re looking at, improving your speed, improving your quality, improving your confidence with, know what it looks like when it’s done right.

Then the next thing that I want you to really think about is clocks, timers. I still remember being in a salon that they were saying, “The entire salon had a problem staying on task, on time, getting dogs done when they were promised.” When I looked around, there was very few clocks, so clocks are going to be really, really critical. Wherever you’re at, you want to be able to quickly just glance up and see that clock.

You want to have a watch on that’s going to be able to stand up to the abuse of what a busy grooming salon is going to be. I find water-resistant, waterproof watches are great. All of us have our phones with us today. So, right on your phone, there’s generally going to be an app that’s got a timer on it. If you don’t want to use your phone, get an old-fashioned egg timer. It doesn’t matter. But you’ve got to be able to measure and know every second of your day, where you’re at, and what you’re doing.

Then to start improving on your speed, you got to measure it. So, if you are struggling to get a dog, a small-to-medium simple trim done in an hour or less, start measuring how long does it take you from the time you put that dog on the table to the time it gets to the tub, and from the tub to the drying area, and from the drawing area back onto the finish table, and how long does that finish take you? You need to break up your grooms, so that you know where you’re spending your time and how much time you’re spending in each one of those areas. Then start improving in each one of those.

I’ll give you a hint. Most of the time, the real trouble, the time waster is in the wet area. It’s in the bath and the dry. So, if you’re struggling to get a small-to-medium simple trim done in an hour or less, double check what your times are in there. I’ve got material out there on learntogroomdogs.com and also in my blogs that you can see a time sheet that tells you exactly where you should be.

So, research that a little bit. There’s a lot of material out there to help you improve your speed, but always have those clocks, those timers handy, and measure it. Know where you’re at. Then set yourself a goal. Set yourself a target. You want to beat it by one minute, by 30 seconds. You’re not looking to make big huge sweeping improvements at first. What you want to do is make very small incremental changes as you improve, as you focus on whatever task it is that you’re trying to improve your efficiency with, and celebrate the small wins.

Celebrating means just sometimes just giving your own self a pat on the back for hitting a target like, “Yeah, I did it.” Those types of things, those successes help you move forward, and if you don’t hit the target, if you don’t make it, don’t beat yourself up too bad. You got another chance, another time. Just keep measuring and keep tracking where you’re at.

When I first started grooming, I didn’t have any instruction. The groomer was fired. I was kennel help, and I got a call from my boss, and they said, “You’re it. You have a new role. You are now the groomer.” Gang, I didn’t know what I was doing. There wasn’t material out there. The internet didn’t even exist. There was very little material for me to teach myself how to groom dogs. My first day, I had six dogs on my table that I had to get done.

I didn’t know what I was doing. So, fast-forwarded, it got to the point that, yes, I was grooming dogs, and I always thought I was being pretty efficient and pretty good at what I was doing. But I will tell you there was one breed of dog that I hated. When I saw it, when it came across my roster, I just cringed because I knew that I was going to totally lose it on time and efficiency, and that was poodles, and it was poodle feet.

I didn’t mind anything else about the poodle, but the foot. When I first started grooming, when I had a poodle, each foot would take me five minutes, five minutes to do a foot, one foot. Down the road, it was always a struggle. I always made a mess out of it. All the dogs jerked. They pulled. They didn’t want me to handle their feet. I was making hamburger out of their feet because the blades were cutting them. I just didn’t know how to do it right.

So, poodle feet were just a huge struggle for me. I really dislike doing poodle feet. As my career grew and I got more experience, I started to understand what does it look like when it’s done right. I started to see the techniques that were being used that I wasn’t using, and I could improve upon what I was doing. Then at one point, I had the challenge. Somebody said, “Can you do four feet in three minutes?” I thought, “Ugh, are they kidding? There is no way. It takes me five minutes, four minutes to do a poodle foot.”

I’d gotten a little bit better over time, but it was still a huge time crunch for me to be efficient in that area. So, when I heard that four feet in three minutes, I thought, “All right, somebody is being able to do it. I’m going to figure it out,” so I did. It took me quite a while. I’m not saying I nailed it right out the gate, but at some point down the road, I did at height of my career, figure out how to do four feet in three minutes, and they were done well.

So, it can be done, but you’ve got to focus on it, and you’ve got to pay attention to what you’re doing. If you pay attention, if you set time goals for yourself, if you measure what you’re doing, and you celebrate your successes when you do it right, when you make an improvement, I guarantee each incremental little step will get you closer to being able to do a dog in an hour, and that’s basically what we look at is turning a dog an hour.

I’m not talking an elaborate trim or a big, hairy audacious, crazy thing. Not a doodle, but your small-to-medium size simple trims. You want to get those turned in at least an hour or less. So measure, track, and celebrate your success when you nail it.


Melissa’s Story – The Many Paths to Professional Grooming

Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank describes her own unique path to a career in grooming and the importance of the motto: Education is Everything!

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Transcript

<strong>Melissa V:</strong> Hi guys, Melissa here. Today I want to share with you my own personal story of how I got involved with professional pet grooming. I don’t normally share this story a whole lot. I don’t generally like to talk about myself. But I was recently at a meeting with my team, and I don’t know how we got on the topic, but I launched into something about my early career. It was like they just stopped, and they listened.

When I got done talking, they said, “Melissa, you have got to share that story. It is so similar to all of the students and the people that we talk to. We really think that it would resonate and help people, especially when they’re stuck or whether they’re questioning is this the right career for them, is this something they want to get involved in or stay in involved in, and maybe what are the paths that are available out there for somebody if you don’t want to continue to stand at the grooming table.”

I said, “All right, fine. I’ll share.” So it’s a longer story. I mean when I look at my career timeline, I started in probably the late 70s. Obviously, I’m still working within the industry today. So I don’t want to take time to dig into all of the details, so I’m going to kind of hit on some of the highlights in the early days, and some of those really tough transitional periods that I had, that I had to make some decisions whether I stayed with the industry or whether I moved on.

I got involved with professional pet grooming like so many other people do. I was passionate about pets. It was dogs, cats, horses. I mean, if it had fur and four legs, I was all over it. I loved it. I was one of those kids that was actually grooming the neighbor dogs. This is back before I ever even dreamt of being a groomer. I didn’t even know that was a career choice for somebody. I was finding neighbor dogs, and brushing the Collies and the Springers, and making them look better.

I was probably seven or eight, something like that. Okay, so I love the animals. We had dogs of our own. As I was going through high school, I became one of those troubled kids. I was never a very good student. In fact, I was held back early in elementary school. I have a bit of dyslexia, and that still haunts me a little bit today. Not only was I a problem academically as a student who was at a struggle, school was a struggle for me, but I was also pretty much a problem child for my parents as well.

I come from a divorced family, and I lived with my mom and my step-dad, and it just wasn’t going so well. I became very, very rebellious and very challenging. So challenging that it was suggested that I be sent away to a private boarding school. Little did I know at the time, that ultimately probably saved my life. It also gave me the focus and the passion to follow my dreams, and the courage to follow my dreams.

I would have never guessed that a little tiny school called Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale, Colorado, could do that. But, they had amazing people out there that really helped formulate young people and sent them onto a path that was very positive and productive. Blessing. I was very fortunate. I had a counselor who is a friend and I’m still in touch with her today. Sandy, hey. Love you. But she said… She was my counselor, and even out there I struggled with my academics.

She really fought for me to stay at the school, even though my grades really probably didn’t and shouldn’t have allowed me to stay. I did have a very positive, outgoing personality. Sandy said, “Melissa when you find what you love, there is going to be no stopping you.” Shortly after I graduated from CRMS, I did find my passion. I found it through a boarding kennel, and I started working at this kennel.

At the time, it was a very progressive kennel. Again, this is way back in the day. We had about 200 runs in total. I was kennel help. I scooped poop. I fed. That’s what I did, and I really loved it. I was able to interact with the dogs and I loved the responsibility. I loved working with pets. We did have a grooming department, and one day the groomer was let go. My boss called me at home that night and told me what had happened, and she said to me, “You have a new role. You are no longer kennel help. You are now the groomer.”

I’m the groomer? I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve never groomed a dog. Okay, I’d bathed some dogs, and I had brushed some dogs on my own, but I had no training, no anything. The first day, my first day as a “groomer”, I had six dogs to get through and no clue how to do them. I had an old book which really wasn’t that great, but I did have a book. I did have my boss, who did some grooming a little bit on the side. So she kind of mentored me and coached me, but for the most part, I was left to my own devices to figure this out. I just had to do it.

After a while, I realized that okay, I kind of like it. It’s kind of fun. I started to get a little bit better at it, feeling a little bit more confident. You don’t take pictures of work that you’re not proud of, so at some point, I pulled out a camera and I started taking pictures of the work that I was doing. Fast forward to early days of the Paragon School of Pet Grooming, and I had found these photos, and I just kind of laughed at them and knew how far I had come from looking at these photos.

I brought them in to show to the students. I didn’t say who had groomed the dogs. I just passed the photos out, and they were sort of passing them through the students, and the students were just in shock. They were in shock, but they’re laughing because the work was so bad compared to what it should have been. One of the students just was staring at one of the photos, and just “Who did this? This is atrocious.”

When I quietly said, “That was my work early on,” they didn’t know what to make of it. I mean, they just didn’t know what to say, what to think, what to do. So I’m here to tell you that you can teach yourself. It certainly helps to have a mentor. It certainly helps to have a program. It has something to speed the process up, but those early photos that those students were looking at, one of them was an English Cocker. The book very clearly said use a 10 or a 15 blade on the back, and draw a straight line down the side of the dog.

I mean truly, it was a stuffed pig with a tutu. I mean it was pathetic. There was no blending. That straight line, it was straight. The other that happens when you have a dog that is flecked with color, when you shave it close you end up with spots, and then the longer coat is still softly mottled. So you’ve got two totally different things going on. I mean it was… Another one was a Schnauzer. I took a forward facing of a Schnauzer, and the book clearly said shave out underneath the eyes.

So what you ended up with was just like this big long mustache. I had no idea you needed to leave fill under the eyes, and that you want straight lines along the sides of the head. On all your rectangular head Terriers. I had no idea. So I shaved it out and gave that dog that hourglass look. Or, the Poodle that I put flood waters on halfway up its leg, and I had no idea that with tied up topknots, that it was hair that was all pulled up. Oh no, what do I do? I shave from the very top above the eyes, halfway back the skull. I shaved it, and then I pulled up the coat.

This is how uneducated I was, and people were paying to have me groom their dogs. They were crazy, but our clients didn’t know. I didn’t know. So I’m going to tell you, if that was my starting point, and today I’ve written one of the top books about professional pet grooming, I speak on the subject, I’m an award-winning stylist. I mean, I have hit so many high points in my career with continuing education and helping other people get, and start, and build a career that truly anybody can do it, guys.

You’ve just got to know where you’ve started from and then move forward from that point. For me, education was really critical in those early days. I didn’t know that much, but what I did have available to me was because my boss was pretty progressive in the industry, she did get periodicals, she got magazines, and she had them up in the storeroom. The restroom was upstairs next to the storeroom, so every time I ran up to use the restroom before I came back down to work I would sneak into that storage room and I would grab one of those magazines and I’d start flipping through it.

You know, I felt like I was looking at Play Girl magazine or something. But what it told me is that there was a much bigger world out there that was just starting. Grooming competitions were just getting started. Certification organizations were just in their early stages. They were just getting started. So I realized that if I really, truly wanted to do this as a career, I had to improve. I had to get better. So I started going to the grooming trade shows. I started sitting ringside the competition. I started finding out what was involved with certification testing.

Honestly, I just jumped in. So I am totally self-taught, but I think that my education, it took a lot longer than what it would take somebody today because of the accessibility to so much more material, so much more education. Educational resources are at your fingertips. I knew that education was the key, and I was able to get a really well-rounded education because I was… Finally, I did. I was very competitive. I stepped into the ring and I learned so much by entering that first grooming competition.

That first grooming competition, I thought I was good. Man, was I wrong. But I went back, I licked my wounds a little bit, and then I went, “I’m going to figure this out.” And so I started to study. I entered the ring not to win, not to place, but to learn. So the ring was a really big foundation of my education. You can learn a lot by having your judges go over your dogs, but also just by the people that were around me. I could look directly into their toolkit and see what tools and products they were using.

I could watch them as they groomed. I could see what their techniques were. Pretty soon, they became my friends. We started sharing ideas, and sharing this and sharing that, and communicating to one another. Just one thing led to another. That’s the one thing that getting out there, not being that one individual person on an island all by yourself, I really encourage people to get out there and communicate with other people in the field. Network with each other, because networking will allow you to grow your career.

It will allow you to share information, and it will put you in a position where opportunities are going to literally fall in your lap. The more you know, the more education you have, the more readily available those opportunities will come to you, and you can actually act on them. So today, one of my key phrases, and our key phrases in all of the educational companies, is “Education is everything.” I cannot stress that enough. Education absolutely is everything.

I have set so many goals for myself. I have hit so many high points in my career. Every time I hit a high point, I just look at what can I do next? How can I help somebody improve what they’ve done? How can I short step it so that they don’t have to struggle maybe the way that I did. When I look at my career timeline, and I know you really can’t see it and it’s backwards, just know that it’s pretty extensive year by year what I’ve been able to accomplish.

Somebody said recently that it’s like, “Wow, you’ve accomplished so much.” To me, it’s basically been almost a 40-year success story because it happened in very small increments, and I just kept going and going, and going, and looking at what I could accomplish next. When my body gave up, and my hands seized up, and I couldn’t stay at the grooming table, that was a real adversity for me but I was able to turn around and say, “Okay, fine. My hands aren’t going to work for grooming anymore, but what else? I’ve learned so much. How can I share what my knowledge is?”

That’s one of the reasons that I started this school. That’s really all of the educational programs or educational products and programs that we’ve been able to put together have all stemmed from, how can I share the wealth of information that I have in my head and get it out there to help others hopefully have as rewarding of a career as I’ve been to have.

My career is not over. That’s one of the coolest parts about the pet grooming industry, is you can make professional grooming be whatever you want it to be, whether you want to be a stay-at-home and just stay small, that’s fine. But if you have aspirations to grow your career, to travel the world, to work with teams of people, to help pets, to help pet parents make their animals be more appealing to be around, if you want to be creative, all of these things come into play with professional pet grooming.

There is no limit to what the career is, other than the limitations that you place on yourself.


Simplifying Dog Grooming with The Theory of Five

Certified Master Groomer and author Melissa Verplank talks about the evolution of The Theory of Five – a method of grooming she developed to create reproducible results and systematic communication with team groomers and clients. From it’s early inception to the foundation it has become for dog grooming instruction, the Theory of Five has helped groomers around the world save time and make money.

If you’d like to purchase The Theory of Five, Click Here.

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Transcript
Melissa V: Hi, guys, Melissa here. I want to talk to you a little bit about my newly revised The Theory Of 5 book. Some of you guys don’t necessarily know the history of why The Theory Of 5 was even created and, to me, understanding the “why” of anything is really important.

So when I first started to think about The Theory Of 5, it wasn’t because it was just this great concept that I had; it was because I had a problem. It was back in the mid 80s. I was running a fleet of mobile dog grooming units. And this is way before mobile dog grooming was even remotely cool; I was definitely a forerunner with that. I had a team of groomers and stylists and we were kind of off in our own little island. You know? Keep in mind this was in the 80s. It was before the age of cellphones and we worked with two-way radios, because that was our only way to really communicate and there wasn’t a whole lot of good training for groomers out at that time.

So here I’ve got a whole fleet of mobile vans out there with groomers in them, and no consistent training. So I’m having to do a lot of training to bring everybody onto the same page because when I’ve got a customer that was calling Four Paws Mobile Grooming – which was the name of my company back in the day – I wanted to be able to send a groomer to their doorstep that could offer very consistent styling within the entire team. So it didn’t necessarily matter if we sent Anna, or we sent Melissa, or we sent Kim, to the client’s driveway, that we could all groom somewhat similarly, and the client could be satisfied with a number of different groomers and know that they were going to get a consistent result every single time they called my company to book an appointment.

Well in reality that wasn’t the case. Everybody was off doing their own thing. I was doing, at the time, a lot of competition-level grooming. I was working on my certification to get my master’s status and so I was really focused on the higher level of grooming. And my team? Meh, not so much. They were just interested in making a dollar, and paying their bills, and they weren’t as focused on the upper level of grooming. And so I really had to figure out a way to simplify the very complicated process of breed profile, trimming, and corrective grooming, so that they could duplicate what I was doing out there in the field.

So that’s really how The Theory Of 5 got started was it was a loose, kind of a raw concept that I started to work on and work on, and over the years I’ve really been able to fine tune it. And once I started introducing it, it started to simplify the entire grooming process and my team was being able to create a very consistent result for my clients – which is exactly what I wanted. I wanted to bring unity to what we were doing as we serviced the customers. The Theory Of 5 was able to do that, utilizing pet grooming techniques and tools, and so we were really working a lot with our clippers, with different lengths of blades, and guard combs, and minimizing the amount of hand scissoring that we were doing, really looking at anatomy closely, and working on how to bring out the best features of the pet, and then looking at how to simplify that so that we could use it very easily and very simply.

And so, bottom line, The Theory Of 5 deals with there are five different areas that we work with every single day. And within those five different areas, there are five things. So basically you’re looking at five different types of jobs that we do every single day. And within that there’s five different body styles, five different head styles, five different ear styles, five different feet and leg styles, and five different tail styles.

So it takes and it compartmentalizes the grooming so that you know exactly what area you’re talking about. And as I have developed The Theory Of 5, and there’s been clarity with the whole concept, I have been able to apply it in so many different areas of working within the professional pet grooming field.

So one of the things that I love about it is not only is it really flexible, but if offers unique styling for each dog – not because the trims are different, but because the dogs are all a little bit different. Each pet is going to be unique. They’re going to have different physical size and shape. They’re going to have different coat textures. They’re going to be different colors. And so when you start combining all of those things together, you end up with a very unique trim for each and every dog. And like I said, it takes the complicated method of grooming and simplifies it and refines it down to an application that is super easy to apply out in the field for each individual groomer to be thorough with what they’re doing, to give great direction. It’s super easy to communicate with a client because now you have a system that you can talk with them and get a very consistent result over and over again. Also, it’s really easy to teach it. That’s the beauty of The Theory Of 5.

Over the years, it hasn’t stayed a very simple concept. It has certainly expanded and there’s lots of different ways that we’ve been able to use it. I’ve been using this theory for well over 30 years and every time that we apply it into a new category, a new way, it seems to work really well for us. Whether it’s just giving grooming direction or whether it’s for mobile, it works. In a salon setting, it works. If you’re dealing with training students, it works. When you’re communicating with customers, it works. Over and over again, The Theory Of 5 is an application that you can use in many, many different ways.

So those are just some of the things that I really love about The Theory Of 5. The book is simple. Notes From the Grooming Table, that is the big … kind of the grooming bible is what a lot of people call it. I think of Theory Of 5 as just the simple book that you can sit down, you can pick up, there’s lots of images in there, there’s drawings, there’s photographs. There’s not a whole lot of reading involved and so you can just pick it up and get through it really quickly. It’s very simple to understand, which kind of goes along with the whole concept of simplifying the complicated; that’s exactly what I’ve been able to do in The Theory Of 5.

And just as Notes From the Grooming Table went through a revision a few years ago, we did the same exact thing with The Theory Of 5. And so we have updated it with some new images. We’ve added some new tools that maybe when I first wrote the book they weren’t available to us, and now they are and they’re just tools that we work with all the time. We’ve even added a few new breeds into the book and changed the front cover. And, heavens, one of the most popular breeds that we’re all dealing with every single day is the doodle. So we show how to utilize The Theory Of 5 and apply it to a mixed breed, a doodle-type dog, and the doodle even made the front cover of the newly revised Theory Of 5.

So if you haven’t seen the book, definitely check it out. There’s going to be links down below so check it out.


Remember: Clients Have Options

In this video, Master Groomer Melissa Verplank discusses the importance of remembering that clients have options. Thinking about this from your client’s perspective helps build your relationship. A dissatisfied customer might decide to DIY or call your competitor, or simply not have their dog professionally groomed. Each of these scenarios can affect your salon, and possibly the health and safety of the pet.

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Transcript
Melissa: Hey guys, Melissa here, and with this session, I want to talk to you a little bit about what your clients’ options are as far as it comes to having their dog groomed professionally, and hopefully having it groomed professionally by you. But even if you are the only game in town, you’re the only salon, just always remember that clients still have options. To me it’s really important to not only provide a quality service that is warm, compassionate, friendly, and it’s going to yield a quality product, but it is to build a relationship with that customer so that they never even remotely think about exercising any of their other options.

But have you ever thought about what options your clients actually have? I mean, sure, they can use you, which is what you’re hoping for, but you know, they could also, if your service slips a little bit, if they have a bad experience with you, they’re going to pick up the phone and they’re going to call a competitor. You certainly don’t want that to happen.

Another option that they have is maybe they start wanting to groom the dog themselves. Boy, how many of us have had that happen to us, and then all of a sudden the client realizes that it’s a lot harder to groom their own dog than what they thought, and they ultimately end up coming back to us. But others, maybe they find they enjoy grooming their own dog, but no matter what, you’ve lost that client and so that is revenue not coming into your pocket, so you don’t want that to happen either. You don’t want them grooming their dog themselves.

Then the final option, the fourth option that clients have is they just don’t do anything. They don’t have the dog professionally groomed, and we all know for the hygienics side of things and for the pet’s well-being, it’s really important to have the dog groomed. Not only are we giving them a bath and probably a skin conditioning treatment, a haircut or maybe just a really good brush-out, but we’re also trimming nails and we’re also cleaning ears. We go over that dog from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail, so we are very experienced, almost trained observers, and we’re going to notice anything unusual.

One of the things that I always think about as a pet professional is that I want to work in harmony with the owner, with the veterinarian to keep that dog in the best condition and the healthiest and happiest that it can be. So I want to see that client on a very regular basis, and I just don’t ever want to give that client the option to look for something else, to exercise one of those three other options. I mean, they’ve got the four options: use you, use your competitor, do it themselves, or not do it at all. I certainly hope that you are looking to really cement that relationship with that client so that they never exercise those other three options, because if they’re exercising those other three options, you’re not going to be in business very long.

So always think about how you can work in harmony with your clients to maintain that positive relationship and to do a great job on every dog that walks into your salon, or cat, dogs and cats. Make sure that you do everything in your power to make your clients come back because that’s the name of the game, repeat business.


Make Time For Yourself

In this video, Master Groomer Melissa Verplank talks about the importance of taking time for yourself to maintain and improve your performance. From focus to stress-reduction, she discusses six ways that time off the job makes you better on the job.

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Transcript
Melissa V: Hi guys, Melissa here. I’ve just come back from an amazing vacation, and I want to talk to you guys a little bit about that. Not necessarily my vacation, but do you take a vacation? Vacations are so important to your overall wellbeing, they are almost to me as important as a well-balanced diet and getting exercise. I want to kind of talk to you about that.

You don’t necessarily need to take a wild, exotic, expensive vacation to get the benefits of it. Some of the best vacations, and I’ve done a lot of these myself, is stay at home vacations where you don’t necessarily go anywhere but you do different things, you plan it out. That’s the key to any vacation is that you want to plan it out so that everything goes the way that it should, and you’re going to get a break from your everyday routine because that’s what makes a vacation really wonderful and special, is that you’re taking a break from your routine.

What are some of the benefits? Why should you stop? The daily grind? Why should you really invest in yourself, and why should you invest in that downtime? Here are some six different things that I really see when I take time for myself, what it helps me achieve. Number one, it really helps minimize stress. Stress, as everybody has it, it doesn’t matter where you’re at, what stage of life, what stage of your business you’re in, I think everybody today has to manage stress and to do it well. Vacations can really help that.

Focus. I get so distracted when I get overloaded with too much work. To take a break from that allows me to maintain that focus and it makes me a lot happier when I come back. My team is going to notice that I come back with a totally different attitude. I’m just a much better person to be around than somebody who’s just having to deal with the daily grind.

Years ago, it was not uncommon for me to put in 60 plus hours a week, I mean that was just, that was normal operating procedure for me. When I tell you that it really makes me happier, trust me, it does make me happier. Also, I don’t get nearly as sick as often when I take time for myself. Again, it’s just giving you that time to reboot yourself and to take time to reenergize. I think a lot of illnesses brought on definitely just from your mental state of mind, and so a vacation is going to help boost that area.

If you’re in any kind of a relationship with your family, with your friends, with your partners, husbands, wives, what a great way to rekindle and to reconnect with those that we love the most, is just taking time and taking your focus off of work and spending it with those people that you really love and care about.

Finally, when you do come back from vacation, the payback sometimes can be a little challenging, it takes a lot to get back into the groove, but ultimately, you’re going to be so much more productive. I come back, I am energized, I am ready to hit the ground running. During that downtime, maybe I was doing some different things but I was still thinking about business, and I was still thinking about what I could do. When I come back I am just that much more productive and ready to hit the ground running.

I asked you guys, when was the last time that you took a vacation for yourself where you could just decompress, that you could just be, that you could take care of yourself, your heart, your mind, your physical being. I really, really encourage you to think about it and think about it for your staff too. If you’re an employer out there and asking your team to put in the same type of crazy hours that you might put in, I would rethink that.

I have gotten to be a real component of making sure that my team takes time for themselves because I really understand the value that it puts on every single team member. Think about where you want to go, what you want to do. If you don’t have a big budget, do a stay at home vacation, they can be wonderful, they can be just as energizing, and knock some things off your bucket list.

You guys, if you don’t have a bucket list of things that you’ve never tried before and you want to try, create that list. I know the last vacation that I just got back from, I had two things on my bucket list, crazy, but I’d never done them before. I had never done an airboat ride through the everglades, I was able to do that. I had never been out deep sea fishing, I was able to do that. Those are just some of the things that I was able to do that got me excited, and jazzed up, and who knows, I might have a new hobby, might be fishing, like I need another hobby.

Bottom line, take that time. I encourage you to find and schedule the downtime. It doesn’t have to be a big, long two-week vacation, it can be a day, two days, whatever amount of time that you can squeeze out of your schedule. Do it for yourself, you really, really deserve it.


The Three C’s: Calm, Cool, and Collected

How do you stay Calm, Cool and Collected when grooming dogs? It’s all in the attitude. Learning to read “dog body language” and to correct undesirable behaviors before things get out of control. Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank discusses the tips to mastering the 3Cs.

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Transcript
Melissa V: Hi guys, Melissa here again and I want to share another one of my favorite time-saving tips with you. This one is practicing the three C’s. What are the three C’s? Whenever you’re working with pets you always want to maintain being calm, cool, and collected. So when you’re working with the pets you want to maintain an attitude of aloofness with the dogs and you want to be friendly but aloof.

Melissa V: Dogs can get really jazzed up if you start talking in a high pitched type tone, so if you just minimize the amount of chatter that you have with that pet, maintain a friendly but an aloof attitude, guaranteed it’s going to go a lot further for you. You’re going to win the trust and the cooperation of that pet a lot faster.

Melissa V: You know if a pet starts to do something that you really don’t want them to do, correct an undesirable action before it gets out of control. To me, one of the most overused words in a dogs language is the word no. So I always come up with a sound that means or indicates to the pet, cut it out, don’t be doing that. A lot of times it’s just something sharp and quick, a sound sometimes not necessarily a word.

Melissa V: I want to make sure that I am going to use that sound early on before an action becomes totally out of control. So, be aloof, be friendly but aloof, stop an undesirable action before it goes out of control and remember that there is absolutely no place for frustration or anger when you’re working with animals. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a cat, a dog, whether you’re, I work with horses a lot and we use the same thing. There’s just absolutely no place for frustration or anger with a horse either.

Melissa V: So it’s going to carry through with all animals and I’m sure it’s going to carry through with kids too, now I don’t have kids but you get what I’m saying there. So, always, always maintain the three C’s when you’re working with animals, calm, cool, and collected. Don’t try to be a hero, not every animal that comes into our salon is groom able. You always want to maintain safety for those pets, and so you know, sometimes you got turn something away. So don’t try to be a hero, maintain those three C’s at all times and your day is going to go a whole lot smoother for you.


Staffing to Scale Your Business

Are you trying to grow your grooming business? Master Groomer Melissa Verplank shares her tips for selecting the right team members to scale your business. She also discusses staff turnover and positive ways to think about and manage the lifecycle of relationships with team members.

Want to train staff to grow your business? Check out our Distance Learning Program and leverage Melissa’s outstanding educational curriculum.

Want to help your staff get a specific breed groom just right? Check out www.Learn2GroomDogs.com, where members have more than 600 grooming tutorials at their fingertips.

Transcript
Melissa: Hi guys, Melissa here, and I want to talk to you about staff. Staff is a necessary situation if you want to grow and scale your business. And over the years, I have had absolutely amazing staff members, staff members that I never wanted to see them leave. And I have also had really, really challenging staff members. And so if you are looking to scale your business, to grow your business because you’re successful, and with success comes more opportunities, but also more challenges. And number one, you’ve got to … if you want to scale your business, you’ve got to find those staff members, but then once you find them, you’ve got to cultivate them. And over the years what I have honestly learned is one of the easiest ways when we’re dealing with grooming staff members is training them myself. And that’s really the entire reason why I started the Paragon School of Pet Grooming was because I couldn’t find enough groomers to support my mobile grooming business. I had six vans out on the road, and it was … there was times that I would let vans sit for a year, idle, and no one was in them because I couldn’t staff them.

Melissa: So this is going back into the 80s, and it was the number one problem back when I was first starting my business, and it continues to be really the number one problem today, is finding qualified staff members to join your team. And before I started the Paragon School of Pet Grooming, I ultimately had opened a salon based operation and I used that as a training center for my fleet of mobile vans, and that was really the only way that I could find team members that could groom up to the caliber that I needed them to groom to.

Melissa: So as you’re growing your business, when you’re looking for people, what I say to folks now is look for somebody with that attitude that you know that they have a great work ethic. They smile, they take direction well, those are the types of folks that are moldable, and you’re going to be able to work together with some systems, get the systems in place, and you’re going to have people that mirror what you’re thinking and how you want to treat the customers. But don’t totally put your heart and soul into them, because just when you think everything is going really well, they’re going to up and they’re going to leave, and that’s just the nature of the beast.

Melissa: And so I would never be angry with somebody as long as they were honest with me, told me up front what they wanted to do, what their dreams, what their aspirations were, and I want to help them get there. And if they want to stay with me for seven, 10, 15 years, great, and I’ve had staff members do that and stay with me for that long. But I’ve also had staff members that have only stayed with me for a few years, and I was a little bit … just, you know, like a stepping stone for them. And as long as they were honest with me, I would help them however I could, because we all have dreams, we all have things that we want to do. But what I want each and every one of you to think about, whether you be the owner of the salon, or whether you be the employee, is that do the best that you can do, and be up front and be honest. If you want to move ahead in your life, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you want to open up your own salon, there’s nothing wrong with that. But be fair about it. Don’t open up three blocks, or a couple doors down from your existing salon, move into a different area and start your own business.

Melissa: But as the business owner, I also want to encourage you to always, always be looking for somebody else to come on board. And it’s not necessarily that you’re going to replace somebody, but you have got to cover your hind end. You’ve got to be able to continue to grow your business forward, to move it forward, and it’s great always to have somebody in training, always coming up the ranks so that when that day comes that somebody does leave, that it’s not as painful for you. There’s nothing worse than relying so heavily on somebody else that when a team member does leave, it’s devastating to your business.

Melissa: And so now, today, what we are always doing is we are always cross training our team members so that if somebody leaves, if somebody moves on, that somebody can step in. Will they do the job beautifully just like the former person? Maybe not, but they have already got a head start. And right now, between the different companies that I have … we’ve got probably approaching 80 employees, between Whiskers Resort, and that’s the one that has the most employees, and the educational companies. So I’ve got a pretty good sized team, and I’ve got to tell you, I have had good days, and I have had really, really bad days based on how well the leadership was going at the companies, and probably the days that were some of my darkest days probably a team member caused that, and I let that get to me. But I will also say some of the most rewarding things that I’ve ever done has been based on a team. And to be able to see dogs walk out that look amazing, to see team members get certified, or to go into the ring, or just to be able to pay their bills and not have to look over their shoulder. Those types of things make it really worthwhile and I love being an employer, because I can expand somebody’s horizons, and I can help somebody succeed.

Melissa: And so for me, having team members works really well. But I will tell you, it isn’t always glorious, it’s not always fun. But I love what we’re able to do, and I love being able to help as many dogs in our community as we do, and I love helping people expand their career. And I couldn’t do it at the scale that we do today if I didn’t have an amazing, an amazing team behind me.

Melissa: So don’t be afraid of it. But just know, you’re going to have to buckle down, and you’re going to have to do some work, and if you are one of those team members, I certainly hope your boss, your employee is holding you accountable to a higher level.


Maintaining Focus

Certified Master Groomer Melissa Verplank discusses one of her favorite keys to success: focus. Focus during a grooming session is critical for safety, technique, and style. Maintaining focus will also help improve your efficiency.

Read more on this topic here: MelissaVerplank.com.

If you want to hone your skill level — and your focus — check out Paragon’s opportunities for continuing education here, or visit Learn2GroomDogs.com for video tutorials to help you groom like the masters!

Transcript
Melissa V: Hi, gang. Melissa here again and I want to talk to you today about another one of my favorite time-saving tips. This one today is about Focus. Focus is so critical as a professional pet groomer whether it be to keep the pet safe, or to enhance your own skill set. Focus absolutely has to be maintained at all times whether that dog is first walking into your salon, whether it’s on the grooming table, in the bathtub, in a drying process, or whether it’s even in the holding area. You’ve got to be aware of what is going on around it, and be able to keep it safe at all times.

Melissa V: The other thing is if you’re not focused on your skill set as you are doing a particular job more than likely it’s not gonna be the best that you could do for the given day, so pay attention when you’re brushing those big furies out. Pay attention to your brushing technique and what’s happening with the skin whether you be scissoring, clipping, bathing a dog, making sure all that shampoo residue is out. You have got to stay focused on what you’re doing.

Melissa V: One of the things is you really can’t stay focused if you’re chattering to your co-workers, so I really encourage folks to minimize the chatter that’s going on out on the floor as you’re working with these dogs. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have a little bit of communication. You don’t want to be totally antisocial and anti-friendly, but you can’t focus if you’re totally engrossed in a conversation about what you did last weekend, or what your kids are doing, or what you’re going to be doing next weekend. You have to be able to focus on the task at hand, and that is the pet that is in front of you right there and then. And then what is going on the surrounding areas to keep the rest of the animals that are in your facility safe, so really pay attention and stay focused.

Melissa V: The other thing is if you aren’t constantly working at it, or thinking about it you’re never going to be able to enhance your skill set if you don’t stay focused, so whether you’re trying to shave a few minutes off of your groom job, whether you’re trying to improve your clipper skills, or your scissor skills, or whatever it might be the only way that you’re gonna be able to do that is to stay focused on the task at hand. You always want to look for ways that you can do something better, something … You always want to look for ways that you can do it faster. You always, always, want to maintain the safety aspect of what you’re dealing with at all times because the pets that are in your care they’re your responsibility. It’s up to you to keep them safe, so I encourage you stay focused on the most important thing that you’ve got in your salon and that would be your clients, and those are the four-legged clients that are coming in to see you.


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