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What is at the Root of All Success?

rrimageEveryone loves do a good job. We like the way it feels to excel and to please other people. For some, doing well is a starting point – they yearn for more.  Do you know the steps and work it takes to go from good to great?

What are your goals? Do you admire today’s top competitive pet stylists? Maybe you have your sights on certification. Do you have a dream of someday becoming a certified master groomer or pet stylist? Maybe you hope to become a member of GroomTeam USA or represent your country in world team competition?

Maybe your aspirations have nothing to do with competitive styling. Maybe your goal is winning the trust and respect of pet owners, turning them into regular clients.

They’re all worthy goals – and guess what? It’s not as hard as you think. There is no complicated recipe. But there is a secret.

Focus on the fundamentals.

Success is all about the fundamentals. The fundamentals are the little things. The ordinary things. And often, they are the tedious things. But to be the best you must master them. You must become a master of those ordinary, everyday tasks. With every act of greatness, whether in sports, business, the arts, or in pet grooming, the best of the best achieve extraordinary feats by doing ordinary things with amazing consistency, commitment, and focus.

c00aa89c0f35c77225dcdc099b7a0f84What are the fundamentals in dog grooming?

It means perfecting the core skills: bathing, drying, brushing, fluffing, and dematting. It’s also clipping, scissoring, as well as understanding basic structure and anatomy. It means having solid and safe handling skills.

As a professional pet groomer and stylist, we get to practice these skills all the time. In fact, many of us practice them every single day. World-class pet stylists don’t master their craft by working every day on perfect dogs with fabulous coats in perfect condition. For many of them, the only time they work on a “perfect dog” is in the ring – and under the pressure of competition. Even then, there is no such thing as a perfect dog. Every dog has its flaws – even the perfect ones.

Top stylists know it takes years of practice with everyday pets to master the fundamentals. Winning doesn’t just happen on the day of the competition. Winning is a result of dedication and hard work. The trophy is a product of training, study, and sacrifice. You cannot earn a high grade in certification testing on testing day, alone. Winning or earning high grades on your practical skills tests starts in every bathtub and on every grooming table, every day. There is no such thing as an overnight success. Typically, it takes years of uncountable numbers of hours of dedication to the craft.

Practice, in itself, is not enough. In order to truly succeed you need to follow this rule: Perfect Practice Makes Perfect. If you are not practicing the fundamentals correctly, you’re wasting your time. Clients will not return if your work is sub-par. Awards will not be given. High test scores will be out of reach.

514_400x400_NoPeelWith so many variables with pet grooming, where do you start? What coaching or training technique should you trust? How do you learn the RIGHT skills?

Start at the ground floor and learn from the masters. The information is out there. You will find it in:

  • magazines
  • books
  • clinics
  • workshops
  • seminars
  • schools
  • trade shows
  • conformation dog shows
  • obedience classes
  • grooming competitions
  • videos
  • blogs

Research online. Talk to vendors and manufacturers. Work with a mentor, a coach, a consultant. Look. Listen. Learn.  But don’t blindly trust everything you find – check references whenever possible. Today, there is a lot of information out there – unfortunately not all of it is good information! Talk to the experts to make sure the material you are learning is correct and safe.

As you learn, take it one small step at a time. Dissect every step. Break it down. For every technique there are micro steps to learn to perfect any skill. Study those micro steps.

stairsStart at the very beginning just like with a long flight of stairs. You start at the bottom, taking one step at a time. Mastering the fundamentals is a lot like a staircase. Jumping ahead or skipping steps will not get you ahead any faster. In fact, missing steps is way more detrimental to a career than staying on course dealing with each step moving up the flight of stairs.

With every step along the way, you are creating a knowledge base. It will continue to grow with your career. It is paramount for any pet professional to have fabulous pet handling skills to build trust with our furry clients while keeping them safe. Another area that is critical to any successful pet groomer or stylist is learning the finer details of structure and anatomy.

The key is to focus on improving each day, taking the necessary steps. If you incrementally improve each day, each week, each month, each quarter – by the end of the year you will see remarkable results and growth. Over time, by committing to this process, the best develop their skills and enhance their performance as they strive for excellence and achieving perfect execution.

If you want to be at the very top of your game, to become one of the best professional pet groomers/stylists in your town, in your state, in your country, you need to practice perfect fundamentals. Every. Single. Day. You don’t need to have perfect pets to make this happen. Grooming everyday pets offers an abundant opportunity to practice the fundamentals.

Your success doesn’t necessarily mean winning the award or scoring a high grade. Sometimes success means having a full appointment book with happy customers. That’s what truly makes a successful grooming business.

What steps do YOU take? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy trimming!

~ Melissa


Introducing the ALL NEW Learn2Groomdogs.com Website!

It’s a new look – AND MORE!

big image

 

In 2010, we were thrilled to announce the launch of Learn2GroomDogs.com. It was something brand new to the pet grooming industry – an online library that streamed videos right to your computer, phone, or device. We opened our cyber doors with 60 videos and were thrilled with the response from professional and amateur groomers, alike.

Fast forward four years later and Learn2GroomDogs.com has over 500 videos – and we’re still growing!

Now we invite you to see our biggest surprise, yet… our brand new, completely reconstructed website with amazing features created just for you!

It’s beautiful and easy to use!

We wanted you to love looking at the site. It needed to be fresh and inviting, with crisp colors and beautiful photos.

The layout needed to be fun and functional with a logical format so you can navigate easily.

We wanted all of our information to be fun as well as informative. You’re our guests, so to make you feel more welcome, we loosened up a little and had some fun. We think you’ll like our new style!

Wait until you see our new Search feature!

s2We know how hard it was to find what you needed, so we really dug deep to make this the best feature. We’re thrilled with the capabilities of our new site. e

Search by Category

Choose from a wide variety of search items, including: video length, topic, and dog group.

Search by Expert

Find your favorite Training Partners – Melissa Verplank, Lisa Leady, Lindsey Dicken, and many more!

Search by Breed

Looking for Bichons? Poodles? Terriers? How about mixed breeds? We’ve got them!

… and because sometimes you just need to browse to find what you’re looking for, we’ve made that easier, too! Just type in a keyword to look around.

There are so many ways to find what you need!

Try it for yourself!

There is so much more to see and experience – it’s impossible to tell you about everything.  Try it and see for yourself. You’re going to love the new Learn2GroomDogs.com!

Coming to you in January 2015!


The Art of Packaging – Gifts for Grooming Clients

Holiday Packaging #1rrI love this time year. There is so much to do. So many details to attend to. So many opportunities to visit with friends and family. So many thoughtful gifts to give and receive. Everything revolves around people we love and appreciate – including our clients.

For many of us in the pet grooming business, this is one of the busiest times of year. The fur is flying, clippers are clipping, scissors are sculpting, and festive bows adorn most pets as they walk out the doors.

This is also the time year that clients can be extremely generous with gifts. Do you have a special gift ready to reciprocate?

When I ran my mobile grooming business of 6 vans, we gave bags of assorted dog biscuit treats. Even though we packaged up the bags a day or two ahead of time, gift-giving for all our clients had become quite the chore.

At that time, a good friend lived with me. She was a fashion designer and has since gone on to become a very successful stylist for photo and video shoots. Her attention to detail was immense. She watched me early one morning as I was assembling the gifts. The kitchen was totally lined with white – individually decorated – paper lunch bags. There must have been at least 40 of them. I had CASES of biscuits lining the edges. “After all, each gift had to have a wide assortment…” or so I thought.

I would grab a large scoop of one variety of biscuits and start dropping a few into each bag. I would make my way around to every bag. Then I would move to the next variety of biscuits and do the same. Then, the next type of crunchy treat. The process seemed to go on forever until the bag was about half full. I would then fold the tops over and staple each of them.

blog imageMy friend watched with her steaming cup of coffee for multiple days before she finally said to me, “Melissa, there’s a better way to do this. The gift is not about the size of the package – it’s about the presentation.”

“Really,” I said with raised eyebrows.

She came into the kitchen, opening the drawer that held my plastic baggies. She grabbed a plastic bag, a pair scissors and some pretty ribbon. She proceeded to drop 4-5 biscuits into the corner of the plastic bag. She tied the bag off with a pretty ribbon in a simple knot and trimmed the edges at an angle. Finally, she cut the excess off of the plastic bag top.

Ta-da!

 

She had created a gorgeous gift in no time. It was simple. It was elegant. It was classy. It was a gift that was easy to give and receive.

I must have learned that lesson almost 30 years ago. I still carry it with me today. The gift isn’t necessarily about the size of the gift or the cost. It’s about the presentation.

It did not take us long to graduate from the small plastic baggie. The generic baggies required trimming to make it appear presentation worthy. We quickly discovered you can order bags and a wide variety of custom sizes.

Today we look at the items we need to package. We order plastic bags that are appropriately sized to custom fit whatever we need to package. Dog biscuits gift bags to welcome packages and everything in between.

We have used this principle over and over again in all of my companies with great success. The next time a client gives you a generous tip – or a plate of holiday cookies – you’ll have something worthy to hand them in exchange.

Happy Trimming!

~Melissa

P.S.

Here is the new video from Learn2GroomDogs.com!

[youtube]http://youtu.be/3L4ZEo9XPmk[/youtube]

 

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Nine Seconds to Make a First Impression

Dog-Computer-Wallpaper-1024x768rrYou meet someone for the first time – it could be a new client walking through your doors, someone at a grooming trade show or a new team member.

The moment that stranger sees you, their brain makes a thousand assumptions.  It might be a new client or someone you meet anywhere else.  You are giving off clues about yourself before you ever begin to speak.  They are gathering a wealth of nonverbal clues about you.

What are nonverbal clues?

Nonverbal clues include all the ways you present and express yourself, apart from the actual words you speak.  Things like eye contact, gestures, posture, body movements, and tone of voice.  All of these signals can convey important information that isn’t put into words.  They are extremely important at work and in business.  Perception is reality.

If you are dealing with a prospective customer – the following items will instantly fly through their head upon your first meeting:

  • Are you trustworthy?
  • Will you be kind to their pet?
  • Do you have the skills required to groom their dog or cat?
  • Are you likable?
  • Are you confident?
  • Will you charge a fair price for your services?

These impressions form at lightning speed.  Making major decisions about another person happens within seconds of meeting them.

Picture1In business, first impressions are crucial.  You can’t stop people from making snap decisions – the human brain is hardwired this way as prehistoric survival mechanism.  However, you can understand how to make those decisions work in your favor.

First impressions are more heavily influenced by nonverbal clues than verbal clues.  In fact, studies have found that nonverbal clues have over four times the impact on the impression you make than anything you say.

Here are nine nonverbal ways to make a positive first impression with a grooming client, a new team member or a new business associate.

  1. Present yourself professionally.  Blue jeans, sweatshirts, T-shirts and a baseball cap are not professional.  If you are in your shop or van, wear fresh garments that repel dirt, grime and hair.  At a trade show? Dress in ‘professional casual.’
  1. Pay attention to details.  Hair style, light make-up (for women) and your nails all give strong visual cues.  Having fun with personal style is fine – as long as it stays a little more on the conservative side.  Over-the-top piercings, tattoos and gauges will not instantly form a positive impression on most people you meet – especially prospective clients.
  1. Attitude – attitude – attitude.  People pick up on your attitude instantly.  Before you turn to greet someone, or address a team member, or walk into a trade show, think about the situation.  Make a conscious choice about the attitude you want to project.
  1. Fine-tune your posture.  Position and authority are non-verbally conveyed by height and space.  Standing tall, pulling your shoulders back, and holding your head high are all signs of confidence and competence.
  1. Facial expression.  Human faces are incredibly expressive including the eyes, eyebrows, mouth, and any other movement.  Open your eyes slightly more than normal to simulate the ‘eyebrow flash’.  This is the universal signal of recognition and acknowledgment.  Emotions such as anger, happiness, hurt, and boredom are all easily expressed with facial movements.
  1. Smile more.  A smile is an invitation, a sign of welcome.  It says you are friendly and approachable.  Smile at the pooch too.  Owners love that!
  1. Make eye contact.  To transmit energy look at someone’s eyes.  Looking into someone’s eyes indicate interest and openness.  And if that person has a pet in tow, make sure you look into the pets eyes as well.
  1. The handshake.  This is the quickest way to establish a connection.  It’s also the most effective.  Here’s an interesting fact.  On average it takes about three hours of continuous interaction to develop the same level a rapport that you get with a single handshake.  A firm handshake indicates a strong personality.  But don’t crush someone else’s hand – as groomers, our hands are typically really strong!  A weak handshake is taken as a lack of strength.
  1. Lean forward slightly.  Leaning forward shows you’re engaged and attentive.  But be respectful of the other person space.  That normally means staying about two feet away.

Every encounter from chatting with new clients, going to trade shows or attending training sessions presents an opportunity to meet people.  It’s a great way to network, expanding your professional contacts.  Making a positive first impression counts.  You’ve got nine seconds – but if you handle it well, those nine seconds are all you need.

~Happy trimming,

Melissa

PS.

You should check out our videos on Learn2GroomDogs.com.  Here is a featured video clip from our channel on YouTube:

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Closet Organizer

Messy-Closet-PhotorrI talk to people in and outside of our industry every day and I am always looking to learn something from every conversation, not matter how short or long the conversation happens to be. Sometimes the conversation is very short, a simple phone call to check in with staff at the office or colleagues in the field, and sometimes the conversation are much more lengthy, which could include planning meetings or networking opportunities. All in all, everyone has something to say and there is always something to learn.

Recently, I was speaking to someone on a plane about their business. We engaged in the standard reciprocal greeting when we found ourselves sitting next to one another and then proceeded to go to work on our laptops. After clicking away for about 30 minutes, I happened to pick up a vibe that the man I had said hello to just a little while ago is in some form of law enforcement or military, I wasn’t sure yet. So, being the social butterfly I am, I asked. Boy am I glad I did!

The man was a retired Marine who is now working as a management consultant. I was instantly intrigued. I asked him what lessons he learned from the military that he felt were the most valuable to him in his new line of work. He answered very quickly. His top pick was “systems” and “standards”.

joe quoteWow! I couldn’t agree more and I let him know this. I told him he was going to be the inspiration behind my next blog post. You see, we often times catch ourselves in situations that take up a huge amount of energy addressing the same problem over and over again in our business.   Sound familiar? Why does this happen? How can we prevent this? What do we need to do or become to help ourselves? We need better systems and standards in our business. Here are some ways you can help yourself. Please understand, however, there will be an investment of your time and energy creating and documenting these things, but like any other investment, do it correctly and you should yield positive results.

No matter the size of your business, (yep, even if it is only you) all businesses deserve a systematic way of creating accountability. The best way to do this is to “declare” to everyone in your business, staff and clients, that you have standards you wish to operate by and expectations you intend on being held accountable to. Here’s a quick tip. If you want your staff to understand and accept the notion of accountability, the business must adopt this mentality first.

The easiest way to make promises to staff and clients is to define a clear picture for everyone what “correct” looks and feels like. While some may feel this is subjective, and I agree to a point, your business is your business and you get to make the rules. This culture of “correct” starts with the hiring and training of staff. From the first minute you meet a potential employee in an interview, be sure they have a clear understanding of your standards. From the first minute you meet a potential customer, be sure they too have a clear understanding of your standards. The employee is accountable to you and you are accountable to your customers.

There are some mechanisms or tools you can put in place to help you with this definition of “correct” and the organizing of your thoughts, direction, standards and accountability. Setting standards is a way of organizing your business, your time, and your efforts so that everyone is pointed in the same direction. I compare a loosely run business to the chaotic nature of an unorganized closet. It takes effort to continually mind the clothes, hangers, shoes, boxes, hats, and various other things found in your closet, but there are few things more frustrating than not being able to quickly identify what you have, what you need, and what you want to wear. If everything in your closet were always perfectly hung, in order, and in good condition, wouldn’t your day be much brighter? Wouldn’t your attitude be more positive? Wouldn’t this save you a lot of time? Be a closet organizer for your business. Keep things organized and take control of your situation.

Here are just some of the tools of organization that you might find handy. If you have some of these in place, congratulations. If you don’t, consider starting today! If you need help, reach out to me. I have developed templates that can help you get started. I have done the hardest part for you. I have identified the skeleton outline of the content needed; you just need to customize them for your business!

  • Safety Manuals
  • Employee Manuals
  • Operations Manuals
  • First Aid and Veterinary Protocol
  • Employee Agreements
  • Take care and I wish you and your business the very best!

 

This guest blog by Joe Zuccarello is used by permission from the author.  To see more from Joe, check out his blog at: High Performance Tips for Pet Industry Professionals

click-here

 

 


Tips for Booking a Smooth Holiday Season

blog imagerDon’t blink. The holidays are going to be here before you know it. Are you ready?

If you have a reasonably busy salon – and have been at this for a few years – you know the holiday season is crunch time. In a very narrow window of opportunity, you will be busy grooming the regular clients in your database.

Every

one

of

them.

Are you going to let your clients run rampant over you or are you going to take charge of the situation before it runs out of control?

The holidays are a special time of year. Yes, it’s one of the busiest times for a professional grooming salon. However, it’s also the time of year to enjoy time with those closest to your heart.  If you are chained to your grooming table throughout the entire holiday season – how can you possibly enjoy your family and friends?

Sure, keeping your customers happy is important, but so is your family. So are your close personal friends. Don’t let the insanity of the holiday season put a damper on your festive mood.

Believe me, I learned the hard way, too. Grooming super long hours up to 14 days straight before Christmas left me totally spent and exhausted. I was definitely a Scrooge throughout the entire holiday season. I knew I had to make a change when one Christmas I literally slept through the entire day.

Here’s a trick I implemented a number of years ago. It’s worked like a gem for me and my teams.

We start looking at our holiday season in September. We start booking our top priority clients months out. How do we figure out which clients those are? Simple.

We start pre-booking all our premiere clients based on the number of weeks between grooming appointments. It’s a service we offer to our best clients for free.

We work in the following order:

Weekly clients get top billing. They get their choice of premier times and days. Once those clients are booked, we move to our biweekly clients. Next, our two-week clients are booked, then we move on to our three-weekers and so on until we reach the end of our 6-week clients. Always go in that order.

By the time we complete pre-booking all of our holiday appointments, there are very few holes left to fill with other regular customers. Those are the only other customers that we would take. Any customer that walks through our doors for grooming appointment during the holiday season MUST have a history with our grooming salon. During the peak holiday season, we never take a new customer.

Once we started utilizing this type of scheduling, the three days prior to a major holiday were a breeze. Almost every dog on the schedule is at least a three week client. How hard is it to groom dogs like that? You know the answer to that – they are EASY!

To me, that’s this best way to deal with the holiday season. Take care your best customers. Set limitations on how many dogs you going to do per day. You will be busy but you won’t (and shouldn’t) be chained to your grooming table during the entire holiday season.

Never forget the true meaning of the holidays. They are meant to be spent with family and close friends.

Have you already pre-booked all of your holiday appointments? Excellent . You’re well and your way to having a joyful and well organized holiday season. If you haven’t already started booking those clients – don’t waste any more time. Start now.

Here’s a little more on the subject – and aren’t our hats the BEST!  You can see more on this topic – and so much more – on Learn2GroomDogs.com.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/tvO4Ji8Lli4?list=UU6QEPG7JG7exQRpEr9e_nHA[/youtube]

-Happy trimming,

Melissa

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What Does the Client Want?

puppy-trainingThe #1 Role of Service Based Businesses: Solution Experts

A product is a physical thing. You can see it and touch it. You can box up the parts or the assembled item and know how it will look, how big it is, and where you’ll put it when you get home. A service, by contrast, is intangible. You can’t mail a service to your house or carry it from a store.

In most cases, services are purchased – touch, taste, smell, and sight unseen. It’s a leap of faith based on the client’s ability to say what they want and the expert’s ability to interpret them correctly. When you go to a salon or barbershop, you can’t try out a haircut before you buy it. You tell your stylist what you want, then – hopefully – you get it. The better you describe what you want, the better the outcome.  Dogs can’t tell you to take a little off the top, so how can you unlock the secret of what your (human) client wants?

By understanding that the person asking the questions controls the conversation!

When you are asking a question, it forces the other person to pay attention to you. It involves them in the conversation. If you’re doing all the talking, the listener’s mind can (and will) wander to other matters – and the end result may not be satisfactory to either of you. But the minute you say, “Let me ask you this: what if we…” the listener must pay attention because they’ll need to answer. It is an automatic reflex.  The power of the words “what” and “how” is almost magical – they command a response.

You’ve now included them in the process.  It’s become a team effort.  You want to get the client on your team – that’s why this conversation is so important.  When you ask questions, you show compassion and concern for the needs of the client and their pet. It helps build rapport. It also allows you to get valuable information from the client.

On average, a person can speak at about 250 words a minute while a person who is listening can think at about 1200 words a minute. So, if you are doing all the talking, the client has a great deal of time to figure out what they may not like about what you are saying, thus giving them an opportunity to complicate the situation! Not only are they manipulating the conversation out of your control, they haven’t heard a thing you’ve said!

How do you develop an effective line of communication with your clients?

Find a Solution in 5 Simple Steps

1)  Make observations. Let your senses guide you when your client walks in. How does the pet look? How does it smell? Do you hear the ticking of nails on your floor? Don’t stop there – observe the human client, as well. Is the dog owner elderly or did s/he come in with small children? This might indicate that a nail filing service might be beneficial to protect sensitive skin. Let common sense, experience, and intuition guide your line of questions. Remember – you’re a problem solver. The more observant you are, the easier it is to find solutions.

2)  Be a detective. This step involves your observations in Step 1 and takes them to another level. Gather clues from what the client tells you and what they don’t. Use your experience and expertise to find solutions that go deeper than the cosmetic.

3)  Filter your data. Ask basic questions like, “Were you thinking of a thorough bath and brush for ‘Fluffy’ today or more of a full haircut?” Let the client talk. Then listen. This will help form an overall rough picture in your mind of the outcome*. Think of this as a sketch to your finished masterpiece.

4)  Pinpoint focus to 5 areas of the pet+.  Ask more specific questions about these key aspects of the pet so you can make a better decision about how they should be styled.  This will provide details that fill out the sketch.  The areas of the body pet are:

  • Overall body
  • Head
  • Ears
  • Legs/feet
  • Tail

5)  Offer limited choices. Now that you know what you can (and maybe should) do for the pet, I personally suggest limiting options to two possibilities. Paint your picture back to the client to show you understand what they want and how it should look.  This also demonstrates that you have listened to them and care about what they have to say.  After all, isn’t that what you expect when you’re the customer?  Make these options your best two – offering more just means spending more time narrowing the field from those that will have less favorable outcomes, anyway.

Always remember, the person asking the questions controls the conversation!

Successful groomers and stylists are master problem solvers. While solving the problem, they also demonstrate concern, compassion, and respect for the pet and the owner. That’s what creates happy customers who keep coming back!

Happy trimming!

~Melissa

 

*Remember to start from the desired end result.  My blog Begin with the End in Mind has more on this topic.

+I recommend using Theory of 5 as a guide to guiding the conversation. Understanding how to break each dog into its essential parts helps simplify the process.

 

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How to be an Indispensable Groomer’s Assistant

blogrThis always shocks me. A competitor or a workshop participant presents me with a DIRTY DOG for evaluation. A dirty dog?! No joke – it happens all the time.

Nails are not trimmed correctly… coats are not dried properly or completely… or worse yet, there are still mats and tangles left in the coat. These are all constant problems I see all the time. Not only at in the ring or at hands-on events, but in salons with every day grooming too.

To me, bathing and drying are the most critical parts of any groom. One bather can make or break your entire grooming department.

Here are 7 skills I look for in an indispensable groomers’ assistant (AKA the bather!) All 7 of these skills must be MASTERED in if you want to be highly valued in your grooming salon, if you want to move ahead in your career, or before you can you gather loads of glowing clients.

1.  Be able to identify popular breeds

Anybody working professionally with pets needs to be able to identify the top 15 or 20 breeds that regularly come into your salon. It’s the fastest way for groomers to be able to communicate to one another.

2.  Be able to handle pets safely and compassionately

How many times have you heard others (or maybe even yourself) say, “This dog is driving me nuts!” Impatient treatment of a pet is never acceptable. If you lose control, you can bet that you won’t have clients for long. Being able to understand canine body language is job requirement #1. If you are going to win the pet’s trust and cooperation, you must be able to speak its language. It will keep you and the pet safe. It will also make the entire experience much more enjoyable for all parties.

3.  Understand the many different coat types found on individual pets

Each coat type has special needs that need to be addressed in the bathing and drying process to get the best results. A Beagle has different bathing and drying needs than a Standard Poodle. The same holds true with a coat on a Golden Retriever or an Airedale Terrier. A talented bather will instantly be able to identify dogs that possess simple coats or dogs that are going to be time-consuming and a challenge.

4.  Bathe the dogs until their coats squeak

If they don’t squeak, they are not clean.

Period.

This is absolutely the foundation of every fabulous grooming job. I cannot stress its importance enough. There are many products on the market to help achieve superior results in only one or two baths. Even if you use the best shampoos on the market, the dog will not get squeaky clean unless they are rinsed thoroughly. Rinse until the water runs clear and you hear the ‘squeak’ when you push the water through the coat. And not just the easy to see or reach parts. Get soap and water to the undercarriage, under the ears, and the special parts. If the whole dog isn’t clean – it’s still dirty. Nothing wastes time or money more than having to re-bathe a dog because you didn’t do the job right the first time. There’s an old saying: if you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over? Get it right the first time.

5.  Dry the coat to perfection

Most of the time, this will mean utilizing a form of active drying. There are several drying methods and combinations to choose from, based on the coat type, trim, and the pets’ tolerance. Incorrect techniques or careless attention to drying will waste more time than almost anything else in the grooming process. In most cases, high velocity and stretch (or fluff) drying techniques will need to be used to get superior results. Oh, and the pet needs to be bone dry too!

6.  Learn efficient and SAFE brushing techniques

Systematic brushing is the only way to effectively work through a coat and get right down to the skin. Selecting the correct tool for the coat type will be important. Knowing how to hold the tool along with how much pressure to exert is also important. Not enough pressure and you will not be efficient. Too much pressure and you’re going to make the pet uncomfortable and could cause injury. The key is to work methodically and gently over the entire dog – right down to the skin until a wide tooth comb can easily be pulled through the fur.

7.  Nails, ears, and glands

Trimming nails and cleaning ears is just an automatic process when it comes to grooming pets. If it is not done – or not done well – it’s considered sloppy. Clients don’t want to spend their hard-earned money on sloppy work. Stylists executing haircuts should not have to go back and double-check this type of preliminary pre-work. Some salons routinely check and/or express anal glands. Whatever your salon option is, you should follow their guidelines.

Being a bather – or being a groomers’ assistant – can be extremely rewarding. However, it does carry a lot of responsibility. Many of these skills are considered the foundation of all grooming.

If you need detailed information in how to do any of these skills, become a member of Learn2GroomDogs.com and watch the Core Grooming Skills & Techniques Skill video lessons (click here for a complete video list) or review the front section of my book, Notes From the Grooming Table. Learning the skills does take time. They take dedication and focus to master them. You should never underestimate the value of strong foundation skills. They will form the building blocks of a long and successful career. Mastering these core skills to an absolute fault will ultimately determine how successful you will be in your career. (For more tips on how you can be more efficient and make more money, read my blog, The Need for Speed.)

Remember: every owner faces a choice when it comes to grooming. They can come to you, do the job themselves, not have the pet groomed all… or go down the road to someone else. Make sure they make the right choice by sticking with you.

Happy trimming,

Melissa

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The Importance of Systems

systemsrMy husband and I were just at the hospital for a scheduled surgery. Luckily, it was a non-emergency situation – just to get his nose repaired so he could actually breathe out of BOTH nostrils. Still, it was surgery and as much as he wanted to have it done, the anticipation levels were running high. We were a bit nervous.

The medical team was great. Their thorough procedures helped squelch our anticipation jitters. Everything, from the pre-screening call days before… check in… pre-surgery… waiting room… recovery… home… and follow-up, was explained to us. At every step along the way there were systems in place to ensure that the surgery went off without a hitch, which put our minds at ease. There weren’t any hiccups in the communication process or the surgery itself.

Checks and balances were firmly in place. Everyone in the medical team clearly knew their job. They understood how important their roles were, no matter how large or small. If even one of them made a mistake, it could have a devastating effect on the outcome of the surgery. We’ve all heard the horror stories.

If you stop and think about it, a grooming salon client has the same kinds of anticipation levels. They are entrusting you with one of their most precious possessions – their pet. Most clients are not that familiar with the grooming process and have no idea what truly goes on behind closed doors.

Is you grooming salon set up like a well-oiled medical team? We may not be doctors but our “pet clients” are extremely important to their owners. There are many steps within the grooming service procedure that could turn into shining moments – or go horribly wrong:

  • They get the wrong haircut.
  • The pet isn’t done when promised.
  • They’re charged the wrong amount.
  • They get the wrong collar or lead – maybe even the wrong pet!
  • A pet is injured – or worse.

This list could go on and on. The larger the team that works together, the more processes you need in place for a smooth running operation.

Every grooming salon needs:

  • a customer service team (even if that team is YOU)
  • a bathing department
  • a drying department
  • a grooming/styling department
  • someone in charge of client records/data entry
  • client education
  • marketing
  • proper cleaning and sanitation

To be successful in the long-term, you need to spend time in the short-term setting up processes. Systems are your routines – the way you do things every time. Here is a short list of items that need to be in place for systems to work:

  • Every procedure needs to be broken down, step by step.
  • Each process needs to be written down and reviewed regularly.
  • Every person participating in the activity needs to know and understand how to correctly perform the procedure.
  • Every person then needs training and follow-up supervision until the task is perfected.

Accountability is the key to success. Positive and negative consequences need to be in place and consistently enforced.

If you don’t have any systems in place at the moment, don’t fret. Take one procedure at a time and break it down into smaller chunks. Figure out what needs to be done or happen for each piece. Then move to the next one – and the next one.

Remember the story book fable about the tortoise and the hare? You don’t need to be a jack rabbit straight out of the gate. Slow and steady will win this race. It all starts with the first step. It might take you a month to get your systems in place – it might take a year. If you are in a state of growth, creating systems for your business might be an ongoing process. The trick is not to be overwhelmed by looking at the big picture. Keep it small so you don’t give up – and keep going.

At the end of the day, you always need to focus on your overall goal: to offer outstanding, consistent customer service – just like my husband and I received with his recent operation.

… As for those horror stories? Don’t be one of them. The salons that have the right systems in place will be prepared. Their staff will offer better service and the guests (furry and human) will feel better knowing that they are in good hands. it’s never too late to start. Do it now! Take that first step.

 

Happy Trimming,

-Melissa

 

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The Jennifer Hecker Story

Bouvier HugrIt was May, 1996. Star pupil Jennifer Hecker was three days away from graduating from grooming school and I was still very much a hands-on Director of The Paragon School of Pet Grooming.

I remember walking into the lobby during check-in. The front staff was just greeting a new client with a very large Bouvier des Flandres. I looked at the dog and immediately sensed something was off. The dog came in willingly enough, but its body language and eyes were telling me to be very, very careful with this dog.

Once the owner was gone, I told the front staff to attach the dog to a wall tether. I sensed we could have a real problem if we tried to place that dog in a kennel. Being out on the practical skills floor where we could closely observe this dog without the housing restriction was much safer. I suggested that the instructors place a muzzle on the dog before they attempted to do any grooming, just in case.

Because we didn’t see that many Bouvier’s at the Paragon Training Center, it was assigned to Jennifer, one of our most advanced students. At that time, Jennifer had shown Giant Schnauzers and had advanced one of them through the highest levels of French Ring Sport. She was not intimidated by the size or the potential attitude of this dog.

Not 15 minutes into the class, someone raced into my office and told me I’d better get out to the practical skills floor – fast. Someone had been hurt. Seconds later, I was on the practical skills floor. The first thing I noticed was how empty and quiet the room was.

The second was the blood trail.

It led diagonally across the space towards the bathing room. There was a crowd of people around a small prep sink. One person in particular was obviously in great distress – Jennifer.

Our general manager was holding her hand under cold water and asking her series of questions. One of the questions still haunts me today…

“Can you feel your fingers?”

I got a glimpse of Jennifer’s hand. Place a quarter on the meatiest part of the heel of your hand. Now imagine that area… gone.

handrThe Bouvier had done exactly what I had feared. The instructor and Jennifer had done what I had requested. They had muzzled the dog before team-lifting it onto the table. That’s when it struck. Unbelievably, it bit Jennifer through a muzzle. It was a nylon muzzle that was open at the end of the mouth so the dog could breathe freely. This type of muzzle can be effective as long as it fits snugly. In this case, they had selected a muzzle that was slightly too large. Even though the dog was muzzled, it could still open its mouth just enough to grab the heel of her hand to chew through her flesh…

…and it did.

We raced Jennifer to the medical treatment center. The local med-station felt that they could handle this wound despite the fact that she had lost sensation in her little finger – or maybe the pain was so great – she couldn’t be sure. They stitched her up, bandaged her, pumped her up with antibiotics, and sent her home.

The following day she was she was back at the doctor, but this time to see a hand specialist. They ripped out all the stitches from the night before and started over. Jennifer was looking at a long recovery period.

Jennifer had such a great attitude towards this whole thing – it was hard to believe. Even though she missed the last three days of class, she still graduated with very high grades. However, finding a grooming job was certainly out of the question for her – at least for a while. We ended up hiring Jennifer for our front office at Paragon while she healed.

As Jennifer’s medical bills mounted, we collected everything and turned them into our insurance company.  However, our carrier did not feel the situation warranted a payout on their behalf.

What??

That’s when we learned that in the state of Michigan a pet owner is ultimately responsible for their dog – even if they are not with it. The insurance company went after the pet owner. They were able to collect from their homeowner’s policy. That was news to me and served as a lesson to all of us.

As the story unfolded, we got more information that was unnerving. My initial gut reaction was well-founded. This was the third reported bite case for this dog – and the third owner. Of course the owner never bothered to share that information with us upon check-in. The dog was destroyed after this third incident with Jennifer.

We learned 5 lessons through this unfortunate event.

  1. Trust your gut. Never do a dog that you feel is dangerous to you, your team, or itself.
  2. Use muzzles when necessary and make sure they fit properly (we changed to full basket-style muzzles).
  3. The pet owner is ultimately responsible for their pet regardless of whether they are with them or not.
  4. In the state of Michigan, if the dog creates an insurance situation, the pet owner’s homeowner’s policy will be responsible for paying any damages or claims.
  5. Love and passion for dogs can still shine through despite severe injuries inflicted by them and long recovery periods.

Jennifer has been grooming with us for over 18 years. I’m fortunate that she is still on my team. She has become one of our most talented and productive pet stylists. She grooms every day at our luxury kennel, Whiskers Resort & Pet Spa. Plus, Jennifer has been one of our talented Training Partners on Learn2GroomDogs.com since the beginning.

We just filmed her for Learn2GroomDogs.com. We had been looking for someone to do a traditional style grooming lesson on a Bouvier des Flandres for a very long time. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect Jennifer Hecker to step up to the grooming table for this lesson! I’m so glad she did. Her love and compassion for all dogs is clearly evident – even for the Bouvier des Flandres.

 

Happy trimming,

Melissa

 

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