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What’s the Hardest Part of Running a Business?

06-27

In my experience, the hardest part of running a business is STAFF!

Hands down the most challenging part of running a business is staffing it. Managing staff. Keeping staff. Paying staff. Keeping them accountable. Keeping them productive. Keeping them happy.

And the real biggie – training them.

So let’s tackle the training challenge first. It’s far easier to hire basic labor than filling a position that requires skill. At our kennel, the Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa, we have an endless supply of dog enthusiasts that want to work in the kennel. With multiple colleges within our community, the labor force is easy to come by. After all, everybody wants to play with puppies!

But what about those jobs that require skilled labor? People like receptionists, bathers, managers, and trainers.

One of the largest reasons I started the Paragon School of Pet Grooming was because I could not find qualified groomers to operate my fleet of mobile grooming vans. They just weren’t available. I still shudder when I think about it. There were times that I would have a van down for 6 to 12 months at a time before I could find somebody that could do the job. Not a very efficient way to run a business.

Working every day in a mobile grooming salon does not lend itself well to a training environment. It can work if you just have to add polish to a skilled professional. But to take them from scratch? Nope. It doesn’t work. You just can’t afford the time it takes to train a new groomer – especially if you rely on YOUR productivity to pay the bills. Starting a person from scratch to become a competent groomer in a mobile just does not work!

To get a groomer that can work independently – with safety and quality – will take months, not weeks, to train. After all, this is not a skill that you can quickly show somebody how to do. Grooming is not a simple task. It requires significant training.

I’ve heard some businesses offer two-week training programs for new hires. Then they turn them loose to groom “professionally.” Some circles might consider this enough, but for quality and safety, you need more.

Did you know the average person needs to see or hear something 3 to 7 times before it actually sinks in? And that’s for an average learner. Sure, star performers might pick it up after the first or second try – but those people are few and far between. Most of us fall in the average category. We have to see or do the same task repeatedly before we do it correctly.

I’ve been in the pet care industry for over 30 years – primarily in the grooming aspect of the industry. Finding qualified groomers remains the number one problem in our field.

TrainingFinding talented grooming help was close to impossible was when I first stepped up to the grooming table in 1979 – and it remains the same problem today. I have chosen to focus on this critical problem. I own multiple companies in the pet industry. On the educational side, my companies aid in training and personal development for those stepping into the field for the first time as well as for aspiring pet groomers and stylists.

It has always been extremely easy to enter the field of pet grooming. There are very few regulations of any sort. Anybody can start bathing and cutting hair off a dog or cat, and call themselves a professional pet groomer. Those of us that have spent years perfecting our craft know it takes time and dedication to become confident and competent in all breed grooming. It takes years of practice and study.

Some of the ways that I have found to become a real professional include:

  • Studying the AKC Complete Dog Book or your national all breed book
  • Reading books produced by breed and/or industry specialists
  • Attending workshops and clinics hosted by industry leaders
  • Attending a grooming school – many have multiple programs from which to choose
  • Taking an online course from a reputable institution
  • Attending continued education training at qualified grooming schools
  • Watching videos produced by leading pet professionals

Even graduates coming out of quality grooming schools are not truly proficient. If they have graduated with above average GPA’s, they have given themselves a great foundation. It is the starting point of their career – but they are far from being a polished professional. They still need guidance. They still need coaching. They still need mentoring. They still need to study. And most of all – they need to practice A LOT!

featured-classifiedSo let’s get back to that hiring challenge. If you’re faced with having to hire a groomer, know what to look for. One thing I recommend is Attitude. Attitude. Attitude. I always look for somebody who’s got a positive, upbeat attitude. Someone who is receptive to new information. They need to be moldable. Adaptable. And they cannot be afraid of hard work. I hire on potential, not necessarily experience.

Once you have someone with a great attitude, helping them be best they can be is fun – and it can be very gratifying. Use the resources available to help them self-direct their own learning.  It will take time, dedication, and patience before you see your new hire flourish but you can lighten your training load by taking advantage of many educational resources currently available. You might learn a thing or two yourself.

It amazes me that our industry has not advanced more in this area. Sure, there are more grooming schools than ever was before. Yes, there are certification organizations out there – but they’re still voluntary. Licensing, in some states is starting to catch on. However, we’re still a long way from having even a basic comprehensive licensing program in place for pet groomers and salon owners. The road before us is wide open with possibilities.

Will you help us blaze the trail?

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat are the biggest training issues you see every day? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.

 


Hiring for the Spring Rush

Now HiringDo you experience seasonal climate changes? If you are in the northern hemisphere, I bet you are already feeling the warm weather grooming rush. One week you are slow, then suddenly the sun comes out. The temperature begins to rise. Instantly, your phone starts to ring off the hook.

Let me ask you this.

  • Are you staffed to handle the load?
  • Are you going to be working 12 hour days, six days a week and still not get caught up?
  • Are you booked out solid for 4 weeks or more?
  • Are clients and potential customers getting frustrated or even angry because you can’t book them as quickly as they’d like?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you’re not alone. When the spring rush hits, groomers are in short supply everywhere!

Finding qualified help is the #1 problem for most business owners.

How often have you advertised for a new bather or groomer and have been able to fill the job immediately? Hardly ever, right? Even after you’ve filled the position, how often has that person been able to perform that job without any guidance or direction from you?

If yours is like most grooming salons, it’s next to impossible to hire the ready-made job applicant. It’s rare to find a person who will be everything you need, right away. Even if you do find great candidates, it’s still going to take work to bring them up to speed. To bring them in line with the way YOU do things in your business. To teach them your culture.

Finding the right people to build your team is always the most challenging part of running any business.

Training is at the heart of all great employees. Unfortunately, training takes time and effort. Both of those equate to money out the door. One of the most frustrating things for any business is to go through the training process only to have the new hire leave shortly after training has been completed. However, if you’re going to run a business that has any growth, you’re going to need to hire help.

How do you find great job candidates who will stay with you? I’m not just talking bathers, groomers, and stylists. I’m talking about anybody that would add value to your business and your team.

I wish there was a simple and clear-cut answer to this very old problem. There’s not.

The best way to get started down the hiring path is finding job candidates with potential. Here are a few things I always think about when looking at prospective job candidates.

featured-classifiedWhere to Find Them

You are going to need somebody who understands that working with dogs takes WORK. A lot of work. I look for proof that they are willing to work. Willing to commit. I scan their resume for clues.

Rural Background

I have found that some of our best employees and students come from a more rural background. Being brought up on a farm always teaches valuable work ethics.  Many times, they will have 4H in their background. Being active with horses or dogs is also a positive attribute. So is someone coming from a veterinarian clinic, animal rescue, or any professional pet-related background.

Students and Recent Graduates

Look at attendance records and GPA, not just a certificate or diploma. Check their extracurricular activities. Was s/he in band, sports, or Student Council? These things will indicate how disciplined and focused a job candidate will be. It will also tell you if that person has worked as part of a team.

Previous Job Experience

Check prior work history. Does the candidate have the experience or skills to do the job? Do they have any previous professional experience working with animals?

Here’s a list of traits that make a great new hire. Look for these behaviors during the interview and during their initial trial period.

  • They listen with intent.
  • They are confident but not arrogant.
  • They have the ability to express themselves.
  • They ask questions.
  • They are motivated to improve their current skill levels
  • The understand directions.
  • They have the ability to focus.
  • They have organizational skills.
  • They have the ability to prioritize tasks.
  • They are willing to try something new.
  • They are open and receptive to constructive criticism.

Here are a few tips when it comes to evaluating a new candidate.

  • Ask for references and call them.
  • Treat everyone with respect.
  • Look for attitude – hire based on potential.
  • Learn to trust your gut.
  • Look for a warm smile.

Once you have a new team member, it’s up to you to provide the training that will guide them. Every salon is slightly different. You want your new hire to succeed. That means you are going to have to put in some effort. They need to be clear on your rules and expectations. Ideally, these rules and expectations will be printed in an employee manual – even if it’s only a few pages!

Observe how they work. Even with the most basic tasks like answering phones or washing dogs, many new hires need to be gently coached. Even if their skill level is weak, if they have the right attitude, you will be able to train them quickly. But you must understand where they are in their current level of training. And the only way to learn that is by having them demonstrate their work.

Books and videos can be extremely helpful to the training process, as well. But don’t just assume they are reading and watching the material – and understanding it. You will still need to observe them carefully for the first few weeks, making sure the information in the books and videos is being correctly implemented.

I learned a long time ago that I prefer to cultivate my own team from scratch. That way they learned our culture. Our expectations. They came without a lot of baggage we need to change. If I was fair with them, in return, they were fair with me, staying with my team for years.

Not everybody will stick with you, long-term. That’s all right. It’s part of the hiring process. Part of running a business. You learn to work with it. Always keep your eyes open for great candidates to join your team. Once you know what to look for, the hiring process becomes a bit easier.

Learn2GroomDogs.com members – check out these links for more information:

What to look for in New Hires / How to Keep New Employees – with Melissa Verplank and Judy Hudson

Slope Side Chats: What Do You Look for In a New Hire? – with Melissa Verplank, Kathy Rose, and Teri DiMarino

Not a subscriber, yet?  Click here to join Learn2GroomDogs.com and get more amazing video lessons like the two mentioned here.

 

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteJump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us what you think.


Educational Events: Should You Send Your Team?

I recently received a question about taking staff members to educational events. As most of you know, I am a huge advocate of continuing professional development. Getting out to trade shows and other events is a great way to learn as well as re-energize your team.

 “I have a question about taking my employees to trade shows and seminars. I have never taken an employee to a conference before. My business has grown. I am seeing the need and benefit of having my employees go to classes instead of just me going and me coming back, sharing all I learned. (Which is hardly possible!)

I am wondering:

  • What is reasonable, as far as compensation for my employees?
  • Do I pay them their hourly rate for giving up their time and “working” all weekend?
  • Do I pay for all expenses…3 meals, hotel, classes, etc.

This is new territory for me and I need some experienced advice.”

-Debbie L., North Carolina

professional-developmentWhen you have a team that values education and training, the possibilities are endless!  Their excitement, dedication, and passion can propel their careers to uncharted heights and help your business thrive.  Encouraging that eagerness to try new techniques and test new tools and products has fulfilling personal payoffs that are also great for your salon.  If you have a team like this, investing is their education is also a solid investment in your company.

As a business owner, you must always balance risk with reward.  You are the person who must look objectively at your team and decide if they have the right attitude and drive for this financial investment.

I have always encouraged my staff to continue their education by attending trade shows and other events. The staff members who participated were dedicated to their craft and did not need a lot of guidance.  This is not always going to be the case.

About 18 years ago, I had my first major setback with a team.  We had had an exceptional year.  As a reward, I flew almost my entire team from Michigan to Intergroom for an all-expenses-paid learning experience.

About half the team did exactly what I had hoped. They presented themselves in both dress and manner as true professionals in every sense. They focused on learning and came home with lots of new knowledge and skills.

Unfortunately, the others fell far short of my expectations.  Their appearance was terrible and many of them spent way too much time in the bar or on the dance floor.  A few members of this group were even too hung over to make it to any of the classes.

By the end of the show I was more than frustrated – I was embarrassed.

These employees did not represent themselves or my business the way I had hoped.  They embarrassed their team mates.  They squandered an amazing learning opportunity – and I lost a significant financial investment in their training.

I realized changes needed to be made. I needed strong guidelines. I developed new policies and put them into place so this type of disappointment would never happen again.

Over the years, we have applied several different techniques with great success. Hopefully, a few of the ideas below with help you avoid frustrations and wasted expense.

Continuing Education Benefits

Today, we have an Education Assistance Program in place. It’s a benefit to all full-time employees. Each year we set a budget and these funds can be requested for a wide range of learning formats.

Everyone’s situation is a little different. Some employers find a set amount to work well for their entire team. Others find a sliding scale works best. Lower level team members get one amount. Key staff members and/or managers get a higher amount.  Figure out what works best for your team – and your budget. Typical amounts would range anywhere from $100 to $1000 or maybe even more, depending on your situation.

professional-development-2Formal Education Assistance

Occasionally, a staff member goes back to college. If the class or program will enhance their job performance, they may qualify to have all or part of the tuition costs covered by us. All courses must be pre-approved prior to reimbursement. Upon successfully completion, the team member submits their transcript or certificate along with their receipts for expenses. We will compensate them for the pre-approved portion of classes.

In-House Educational Training

At times, we arrange in-house training. These programs aid the overall knowledge of our pet service teams. At times, the training programs are offered to our employees for free or at a heavily discounted rate. Other times, the benefit is simply the convenience factor. They have access to leading educators right in their back yard. Attendance is highly encouraged at these events. If it is a mandatory event, the staff member will be paid to attend.

Seminars, Clinics, Trade Shows, and Grooming Competitions

teri-2Smaller seminars and clinics offer wonderful ways to learn. Typically, this type of educational event is much more intimate. It’s easy to get up close to see what the demonstrator is doing. Plus, it’s easy to ask questions throughout the entire program.

Larger trade shows are fabulous learning opportunities. At larger events, attending classes isn’t the only way to learn. Opportunities abound out on the trade room floor. There is a variety of products, services, tools, and equipment to learn about. Many of the larger vendors have platform demonstrations going on right at their booths. Sitting ringside watching the top stylist groom in the competition ring will yield plenty of educational opportunities too. Some of the best learning takes place in a more social setting while networking with fellow pet professionals.

To qualify for reimbursement, employees must seek approval before attending. The staff member needs to submit an outline of the program(s) they plan on attending and what they hope to learn from each.

Sitting down with them shortly after their return is a great way to let them share what they’ve learned. Show support and encouragement. You want to learn firsthand what they heard and saw. Ask them how they plan on applying the information. I personally give them brownie points for coming back with photos on their phones of their favorite speakers and personalities at the event.

Don’t forget, upon return of the educational event, they need to submit a written report outlining key takeaways from what they have learned at the program. If they have been pre-approved for travel expenses, they must submit a full expense report including receipts.

Keep in mind, whenever a staff member is at a work-related function, they must uphold your professional standards of conduct. If they fall short, they may not be reimbursed for the cost of the event. Having them sign an agreement outlining your expectations of professional conduct would a great idea.

Here are a few qualifying rules for our Education Assistance Program Benefit.

The Cost

There is more to it than just the upfront cost of the learning event. There are lots of hidden costs, too. Typically, there will be fees associated with:

  • travel
  • lodging
  • meals
  • wages (if the training is required)
  • lost revenue if the event takes place during a typical work day

Sometimes, it’s more cost-effective to seek out smaller events – especially when first getting a team excited about continued education. Personally, I like to test my team on smaller events closer to home. They are easier for my team to get to and less costly. FYI, some of the best educational events for my team are those I’ve hosted. (That’s another blog altogether!)

Staff members must:

  1. Advise the company prior to enrolling for any continuing educational event. Upon review of the training opportunity, the management team will decide if the course or programs qualify for the Education Assistance Program.
  2. The program must be job-oriented and offered by an approved institution, person, company, or organization.
  3. The staff member must be employed with the company for at least six (6) months (full-time).

Alternative Educational Opportunities

We offer additional funds towards approved learning opportunities. These opportunities include, but are not limited to; on-line training programs, membership based platforms, educational videos, and literature.

We encourage all staff members to stay current, informed, and self-educated as it relates to their job. Ultimately, it is their responsibility to manage and grow their career.

If a team member is seeking reimbursement for the cost of a learning opportunity, they must seek prior approval.

Depending upon the situation, either written or verbal reports will need to be submitted to the management team prior to reimbursement for the cost of the educational opportunity.

Certified Master Groomer Status

All our grooming staff members are eligible for voluntary certification testing through one of the approved programs: NDGAA, IPG, or ISCC. This is above and beyond their educational assistance program benefit. Upon successful completion of each phase, we will pay the cost associated with each level of the testing.  Membership dues are the responsibility of each employee.

What do I do if a team member shows their commitment to learning? I start looking at more involved programs for them. I’ve had a few staff members so committed to growing their careers, they blow through their allotment in one weekend. If they want to attend events beyond what I will pay for, we will always try to rearrange their work schedule to make it possible.

Continued education is at the heart of all successful grooming businesses. I love helping people grow their skills. If I have a team members committed to growing their careers, I will do what I can to point them in the right direction. Knowledge builds confidence, bolsters technical skills, and increases productivity. Win. Win. Win.

If you are building a team committed to quality and success, you have decisions to make. What is the best way to grow your team? It will be up to you to weigh out those costs and to determine how they will benefit your business.

Happy trimming!
~Melissa
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Making the Most of a Seminar

seminarWhen you attend trade shows and clinics, preparing in advance can help you make the most of this experience.  Seminars are a great way to improve your skills and recharge your batteries.  Meeting your mentors and soaking up their knowledge is a fantastic opportunity, and if you can see and hear them in action, it maximizes the experience.  When you know what you need and what you hope to get out of the session, you can better prepare yourself to squeeze out as much as you can from your time together.

1.  Step into the session with a very open mind.

If you are young and fresh to the industry, the amount of information that you get can be intimidating.  Listen, take notes, and soak up every bit of knowledge that you can.  Sometimes that may mean suspending what you know in order to make room for something new.  Trying new techniques or ideas can be uncomfortable just because you’ve never tried it before.  Keeping an open mind enables you to break from your routine to get different results.  With time and practice, the awkwardness goes away and you become more efficient.  Remember: having more tools, techniques, and knowledge allows you to have multiple approaches to a problem.

2.  Make efficient use of the time available.

Many trainers at these sessions have limited time.  They are often rushing from one obligation to another – judging competitions, speaking in seminars, or providing hands-on clinics.  If they can, many will take the time to answer your questions.  If you know what you need to ask, it helps you make the best use of the brief time you may have together.  Be prepared – write down your questions in advance so you don’t forget something important or stumble over your words.  Being ready to participate in the learning experience helps you make the best use of the session – and the presenter will respect you for it.

3.  Don’t be nervous – plan ahead.

With so much to see and do at trade shows, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.  Break out the catalog and study the floor plan before you arrive.  Map out your plan of attack to make sure you get to everything you need to see.  Some shows have free apps you can download to help make the most out of your experience.  Know the schedule of events so you don’t miss that speaker you’ve been hoping to see.  Sometimes it’s good to go to shows like this with a friend – divide and conquer, then compare notes later.

As your knowledge and skills advance, the clinics won’t be as daunting. They will become a great way for you to fine-tune your skills.  You can begin to network and exchange thoughts with others in the industry who can provide insight when you need it.  Plus, these types of functions are a great way to invigorate your career.

These principles remain valid for many forms of advanced learning in the pet grooming industry. Maybe you don’t have the opportunity to do a hands-on training session. There is a wealth of information to learn from these all-star pet stylists. You might be in the audience at a trade show, pet grooming competition or watching a grooming video lesson featuring one of these top stylists. The better you can execute the core skills with your everyday grooming, the easier it will be to successfully transfer their lessons to your own grooming table.

If you are not as accomplished as these award-winning and highly successful pet groomers are – take note. You can learn a lot from their well-developed skills. Learning new skills, tips, and tricks make grooming pets all that more fun!

What do you attend at trade shows? What do you look forward to shopping for when you go to Hershey? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy trimming!

~ Melissa

2016-09-21_1422


Canine Influenza

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you have probably heard about the newest illness threatening our pets. Canine influenza (CI), or dog flu, is a highly contagious infection that can have serious implications not only for our pets, but for your business and our industry.

The dog flu originally appeared in Korea, China, and Thailand. Earlier this year, an outbreak occurred in Chicago. This flu can spread quickly from dog to dog by contact with respiratory secretions and contaminated objects. Any dog, regardless of age or breed can fall victim to this illness. This virus can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours, and on hands for 12 hours. That means that infected dogs that come into contact with these items can potentially pass on the illness:

  • Food and water dishes
  • Collars and leashes
  • Dog toys
  • Kennels
  • People who move back and forth between healthy and infected dogs

Experts estimate that 20-25% of exposed dogs will become infected, but may show no actual signs of illness. 80% of infected dogs may develop the flu and have mild symptoms such as a persistent and treatment-resistant cough, similar to kennel cough. They may also include sneezing, runny nose, and fever.

A small percentage of the infected dogs may develop serious issues, including pneumonia or even bleeding in the lungs. Death is also possible in some cases.

Diagnosing and treating the illness should be done by your vet. Most dogs recover within 2-3 weeks.

Those of us in the pet industry must take a leading role in preventing the spread of this illness. That means making a serious upgrade in how we look at cleaning and disinfection of our facilities. Kennels, grooming salons, vet’s offices, and dog parks can help increase – or reduce – the chances of spreading the flu. Because it can take 2-4 days after exposure to develop the flu, it’s important to take steps to prevent the illness before symptoms appear. Being proactive is the best defense.

An outbreak of the flu in your area can have devastating results. Your clients could be affected. Even your own pets can be at risk!

  • Imagine what would happen if your salon or kennel experienced an outbreak? No one wants a pet to experience a serious case of the flu, or even mild symptoms of the illness.
  • What would the impact be on your business? You would surely see a difference in your daily bottom line as pets become ill and need to stay home to recuperate.
  • What about your human clients? Would they feel like you took the necessary steps to prepare for and prevent an outbreak?
  • Are you prepared to answer questions about the flu? What about your staff?

Preventing the Flu: Step One

It’s important to be plan and be prepared. That means educating yourself and training your staff on what to do if you are in a risk area. Do you make calls to remind your clients of their appointments? That’s a great time to talk about the health of their pet.

Know what you’re going to say before you place the reminder call. That way you know what questions to expect and will be able to answer them without sounding unprepared. Knowing what you are going to say also reduces panic and hurt feelings from sensitive clients.

You might consider creating educational materials for your clients to take home. Those of you who send emails to your clients may consider sending out a newsletter with details about the illness so they can monitor their pets more closely. Posting informative links on your social media outlets is also effective.

Remember – you’re not trying to frighten your guests, so having a script to refer to is a great tool. Know the facts and use them to help create a team with your clients so you can work together on preventing an outbreak.

Step Two

You and your staff should know what symptoms to look for. If a pet client shows signs of illness, it should stay home.

Remember, you are a trained observer and not a vet. You shouldn’t diagnose the pet. But you can certainly suggest that contacting their vet might be a good idea.

Infected pets should be isolated from other pets – that means no trips to the dog park, the kennel, or the grooming salon. If you need to send a pet home, immediately disinfect the area once it leaves your building.

Step Three

Get out your rubber gloves – it’s time to disinfect and sterilize.

The flu virus is killed with routine disinfecting products that contain quaternary ammonium compounds (e.g., benzalkonium chloride), aldehydes, phenols and those with 10% bleach content.

Clean all surfaces, kennels, tubs, tools, equipment, floors… anyplace a dog has been or you have touched after coming in contact with a dog. Get to work on the entry way to your building. Don’t forget your lobby and seating areas. And pay attention to your offices supplies such as phones, pens, and anything else you pick up every day. That leads us to…

Step Four

Wash your hands! Do it before and after eating. Wash them after touching a pet. Scrub them after touching the garbage. Are you doing it right? The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says to follow these guidelines:

The Right Way to Wash Your Hands

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Remember that educating yourself and your client is a great defense against canine flu. The better prepared you are, the better your chances of preventing or reducing an outbreak in your area. Don’t wait until it’s too late to understand the risks and your responsibilities. The sooner you understand how you can help, the healthier your pet clients will be.

To read more on Canine Influenza, click here .

Happy trimming!

~Melissa


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