Top Five Reasons I Don’t Allow Blue Jeans at Work

January 19th, 2017 by Joelle

jeansI know I’m going to ruffle a few feathers with this blog. But… my blog – my opinions. It’s ok if you don’t agree with me, but this is how I feel.

Call me old-fashioned. Call me a stick in the mud. Call me conservative. All of them are true.

When it comes to presenting a professional image appealing to our service-based clientele, I want simplicity. I want neat. I want clean.

Why?

Professional pet groomers have an image problem. As a whole, we are not seen as “true” professionals. We are not respected. Professional pet grooming is not commonly viewed as a credible profession. My father wasn’t thrilled about my early career move back when I was twenty. (He’s OK with it now!) What about your dad?

Unfortunately, this image problem is often well deserved. We are our own worst enemies. If we want to be true professionals, we need to look and act the part. Not just in how we present ourselves, but how we present our businesses, as well. Are we personally presenting a neat, tidy, and clean appearance? What about our salons and mobile vans?

If we can’t groom ourselves, how do we ever expect our clientele to view us as educated professionals? How do we instantly gain their trust? How do we build a long-term relationship based on respect?

None of this will happen if we don’t take pride in ourselves and our workplace.

Not allowing my team to wear blue jeans at work is my first line of defense.

We have less than 30 seconds to make a first impression. When a new client walks in the door, the impact is almost instant. What do they see? What do they smell? And what do they hear?

I’m not here to argue some people can rock it in a pair of well-fitted blue jeans. The problem is – most of us can’t. When I’m working with a large team of people, it’s much easier to require a basic dress code.

Dress codes don’t have to be complicated. They go a long way to set the first stages of creating a positive first impression.

006b14ed7c8bcb88d198fb55ef140b6c_-dress-for-success-and-dress-for-success-clipart_1602-16035 Reasons Why A Dress Code is Good For Business

  1. A dress code creates uniformity. Keep it simple. Matching attire goes a long way to create a positive impact on clientele. Black, khaki, or even white slacks, capris or longer shorts look professional, especially when teamed up with coordinating business shirts or jackets. Some pet service businesses find matching medical scrubs a simple way to unify their team. If you’re dealing with dog hair all day, matching hair-repelling garments make it simple to look stylish. Clients instantly know who is a staff member.
  2. It’s controllable. With a well-written dress code, it’s easy to get a consistent look within your entire team. Plus, it’s easy to enforce it.
  3. It minimizes risk. Dealing with dogs all day presents risks. You need to be stable on your feet and be able to stand for hours. Sturdy footwear is a must. Hooped jewelry poses a health threat to the wearer when handling dogs.
  4. It builds trust. Having a clean, crisp, and simple – but polished – dress code in place instantly builds credibility with clients. Trust is at the heart of all successful service based business, bringing clients back on a regular basis.
  5. It simplifies life in general. Today, we all have hundreds of decisions to make. By establishing clear boundaries with a dress code, you simplify your team’s daily decision-making process. By giving them direction on what to wear to work, they clearly understand what type of impression the company puts out to its clients and potential customers.

Some employers struggle with employees who believe they have the right to dress and groom in a way that represents their personality. This is true – outside of the employer’s business. However, businesses have rights to establish a dress code that aligns with their company and their target market. While individuals have a right to express themselves, so too do businesses. The way your employees dress sends intended or unintended messages to your clientele.

Suitable attire, along with basic politeness, cleanliness, and knowledge are a few of the most common threads within professionalism. Torn, sloppy, or ill-fitting blue jeans, in my opinion, do not convey the type of professional image I want to present to the community.

It’s human nature to form instant options of others. Personal presentation affects the perception clients have of you, your business, and your team. It is important to maintain a dress code which creates a positive first impression.

Never forget, the point of a dress code and professional conduct, at all levels, is to make others comfortable, including your clients. Its implementation ensures the instant impression a business is credible, trustworthy, and reliable.

Happy trimming,

~Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_white

 

 

P.S.  I know this is a controversial topic.  Let’s talk about it.  I want to hear what you think.  Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell me your thoughts.


Spotlight Sessions for January 17, 2017

January 17th, 2017 by Joelle

Making a Choice

January 12th, 2017 by Joelle

revbookOne of my favorite holiday tasks is selecting a motivational book to give to many of my business associates. I look forward to it every year. As the months pass, I listen to what people around me are saying. What are their frustrations? What is impacting them? What do they lose sleep over? Every year it’s a little different.

This year, the common thread was choices. Little choices. Big choices. Time-consuming choices. Life-changing choices. Scary choices. Every time I turned around it seemed like someone was struggling with this issue – including myself!

As I was scanning the titles, a few stood out. I ordered three different samples. When they arrived on my doorstep back in November, it didn’t take long to realize which book to select this year: One Choice by Mac Anderson from Simple Truths. The subtitle really resonated with me…

You’re always one choice away from changing your life.”

Does it ring true with you, as well?

Every day we have choices. Each one of those choices impacts our lives. Is it going to be positive or negative?

The scary choices are the hardest. Fear can totally immobilize you.

During my career, I’ve had many difficult choices – some of them very scary. Some of my choices would not only impact me – but my team members as well.

I remember one such circumstance. It was terrifying…

In a relatively short period, we had grown the business tremendously. It was exciting. It was exhilarating. We were teaching 20 to 30 students at a time and grooming well over 80 dogs every day. Our sales catapulted to over a million dollars. We were on top of the world.

And then with one phone call – it came to a screeching halt.

I remember the fear. I was absolutely paralyzed by it. I had put most of my eggs into one large corporate training account basket. We were a year into a seven-year contract. But there was a loophole in the contract and they decided to go in a different direction. We would no longer be providing training services for them.

What was I going to do? What choices could I make? How could I save the business? What was I going to tell my team? How would we handle the clients?

Fear gripped me like never before. I couldn’t move. I could not make a decision. I remember being totally overcome with fear – and tears. I was on the verge of losing most things I had worked hard to create. My business. My team. My home.

Luckily, my core team stayed close. They picked me up, helping me regain the courage to make a choice. To make a plan.

Over the next six months I had many choices to make. Many were not choices I wanted but they had to be made. Ultimately, we arrived back to the million-dollar point in sales in less than four years.

Opportunities presented themselves with every choice I made. Many of those choices changed the direction of my life and my businesses. At the time, I had one business. Today I have six with many divisions within each of them.

Today, your life is directed by the choices you’ve made. Are you happy with those choices or would you like your life to go on a slightly different path? You alone can set a different course if you have the courage to do so. It starts with one choice to make a difference. Making one choice will lead to opportunities to make more choices.

  • Are you happy with your health? If not, make one choice to improve it.
  • Is your career going in the direction you dreamed about? If it’s not, make one choice to improve it.
  • Is your personal relationship fulfilling? If it’s not, make one choice to improve it.
  • How do you interact with your family? Is it supportive, warm, and loving? If it’s not, make one choice to improve it.
  • Do you have a positive outlook with your attitude towards life? If not, make one choice to improve it.
  • Are you reaching your business goals in a manner that is rewarding? If not, make one choice to improve it.

Ultimately, you control your life by the choices you make. Growth will only happen when you stretch beyond your comfort zone and make choices.

When selecting my motivational holiday books, sometimes they are as much for myself as the recipient. This was one of those years!

As I head into 2017, I’m excited about the choices I have before me. Many of them deal with my companies. Others deal with my personal health. Both my companies and my personal health could certainly use some improvement.  The choice is mine to change it. To improve it. To improve them.

What choices are you contemplating to make a positive change your life?  Don’t over think it – just do it. The choice is yours.

~Melissa

P.S. Have you made a choice that made a difference in your life?  Go to our Facebook page and share your story.


Educational Events: Should You Send Your Team?

January 5th, 2017 by Joelle

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

Occasionally, 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
Hop onto our Facebook page and tell us what YOU do!

How to Encourage Cold Weather Appointments

December 15th, 2016 by Joelle

cold-weatherDo you live in a climate where you have seasonal changes in the weather patterns? For many groomers, the number of grooming appointments dips with the temperature. This can be a real problem if you rely on your grooming income to pay your bills!

How do you combat that problem? Encourage pre-booking.

It always amazes me how many clients have no idea what their pet needs in terms of coat care when the temperatures plummet.

Professional pet grooming is service driven. That means you must be a problem solver – even when your clients don’t know they have a problem! Thus, you become not only the problem solver but also the educator!

Just prior to some of the coldest weather of the season in the northern hemisphere, we have one of our busiest seasons – the holidays. Take advantage of your good fortune.

Here are 6 of the most common problems associated with colder weather:

  1. Pet Hygiene: regular bathing is essential for pets that share our lives – and our homes.
  2. Regular Brushing: keeps the tangles away along with other benefits such as distributing oils through the coat and promoting circulation of the skin.
  3. Nails: they need to be trimmed and/or filed all winter.
  4. Feet: many breeds need the hair between the toes trimmed to keep them comfortable while outside.
  5. Coat Growth: it does slow down but trimming is still essential.
  6. Dryness & Static: both the skin and the coat can dry out – special shampoos and conditioners can combat the both dryness and static.

As you check out every pet, assume the client is going to rebook in 4 to 6 weeks.  Let them know that most pets benefit from regular grooming – even in the winter. It can be very helpful to have a marketing piece outlining the benefits of cold-weather grooming ready to hand out. Focus on the six items outlined above.

Most pets benefit from regular grooming – even in the winter.

Always suggest the ideal time frame between appointments based on their dog’s coat type. Let them know you’ve saved a particular date just for them. If you know the client well enough, you’re going to know what they prefer for an appointment time. Offer that time to them.

If your clientele is price sensitive, try sweetening the deal. Offer a special winter incentive to book within 6 weeks of their last appointment date. $2-$5 off their normal grooming price is a common enticement to get them back on the grooming table.

Oops. You didn’t ask your clients to re-book?! Now what?

If you didn’t ask every one of your customers to rebook when they were in for their holiday appointment, don’t despair. For many grooming businesses, it is a bit slow right after the holidays. Take that down time to simply pick up the phone.

Systematically go through your appointments starting in the end of November and work your way to Dec 24th. Make a simple and friendly “courtesy call” to get their pet set up for their next appointment. Don’t forget to include your special discount for booking within 6 weeks of their last appointment.

pl-animalwallpapers-214 Typical Cold Weather Issues Associated with Grooming

  1. It’s important to remember that coats and sweaters continually rub against a dog’s fur, constantly causing friction against the hair. If the coat is fur is longer, this can lead to mats and tangles. It’s best to remove doggie garments before they come inside. Remember, most of us don’t wear our heavy coats indoors. The same should happen with our pets. If they need a little added warmth, most folks opt for an indoor sweater. They can do the same with their dog.
  2. For dogs that are very short coated or the coat is very thin, doggie garments for both outside and inside are great options. However, constant sweater wearing leads to doggie odor, dry skin, and lots of static. All problems that can be addressed with regular professional grooming.
  3. If the dog normally gets a haircut, many owners enjoy a slightly longer style in the winter. Many of these longer styles are still low maintenance and easy to care for – especially if the dog is going out into the snow for a romp.
  4. Some owners extend the time between haircuts. If their pet has the type of coat that could easily get out of control without regular brushing, you’ll definitely want to encourage maintenance appointments between full haircuts. Maintenance appointments would include a bath using a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner, a full brush out, minor trimming around the eyes and feet, and sanitary areas. Nail trimming, ear cleaning, and fresh bows or bandanna are nice touches. Generally, these types are booked every 2 or three weeks and offered at a reduced rate.

Still slow? Plan for it. (Okay, maybe NEXT year plan for it…) But for now – bask in the glory of a little time to yourself! Use the time to dig into those shop projects you’ve been putting off. Shorten your workweek to 4 days or knock off a tiny bit early on select days. Or best yet – schedule your OWN vacation!

Happy Trimming!

~Melissa


How to Make a Sparkle Bow

December 7th, 2016 by Joelle

headerThis sparkle bow is a perfect fit for this fun and festive holiday season. Not only is it super cute, it’s easy to make!

It all starts with garland. It’s easy to find this time of year. The best type to use for bows is woven with very fine wire. It typically comes in a couple of sizes and a variety of colors. I’ve found the one that’s about 2 inches in width works the best for bow projects. It also balances the finished bow nicely on the pet.

To speed this project along, I work with pre-made bows. The bows are held together with a small elastic band. When finished, there is a small loop on the back side of the bow for attaching it to the pet. Bows can be placed in the fur, in topknots, or on the collar.

When trimming the garland into smaller pieces for the bow centers, the wired garland should hold the tinsel together. When trimming, use only the tip of the scissors to trim at the very center to the garland. As you trim, try to avoid cutting the tinsel.

Once trimmed to length, the tinsel piece will only be about a ¾” to an inch long. The small piece of wire ends up getting crimped, creating a circular spray of sparkle for your bow center. When picking up the small garland chunk, gently hold the garland between your fingers. Push your fingers together in one smooth movement, slightly rolling the center of the garland between your fingers to get a consistent spray of tinsel.

Quickly add a few dabs of hot glue to the center of the pre-made bow plus a few quick spots on the loops themselves. Apply the garland to the center of a pre-made bow while the glue is still very warm, pressing down firmly. Hold for a few seconds until the garland sparkle center is firmly attached to the bow.

To add the final finishing touch, add a small bead at the center of the garland spray center with a dab of hot glue. Personally, I like to use Mardi Gras-style beads. You can find these during the holidays, too. Trim the strand into single beads.

When trimming the strand, I snug the shear up to one side of the bead. This allows for a small thread nub on the opposite side of the bead. If you strategically sink the thread nub into the hot glue, it will stay firmly in place. Hold for a few seconds while it adheres.

Once the glue has cooled, remove any hot glue cobwebs.

These bows are fast, fun, and festive. If you work with pre-made bows, these are easy to make in seconds. My regulars would request them in colors matching their personal holiday theme. My clients always loved them on their pets.

Items that you will need for this bow style are:

  • Pre-made basic bow – 2 or 4 loops
  • Christmas tinsel garland
  • Beaded garland or Mardi Gras-style beads
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue gun
  • Glue sticks

 Step 1

Gather your supplies and select the color of garland you want for the center of the bow. Bows and tinsel can be prepared ahead of time. Once the bows have been made and the tinsel pieces trimmed and shaped, they can be quickly and easily assembled with the glue gun.

sparkle-bow-1supplies

 Step 2

Trim a small section of garland. Using craft scissors, cut the wire that holds the sparkly tinsel in place. Use only the tips of the shears or slide the open shear in until you meet the wire. Make a small cut, minimizing how much tinsel is cut with each snip. Trim the garland over a paper plate or shallow box to minimize cleanup.

sparkle-bow-2-tinsel-length

 Step 3

Once the garland pieces are cut, crimp the wire by holding each end on your fingertips and pinching the ends together. With the wire crimped, push your fingers against each other to send the strands out into a uniform spray shape. This also flattens the tinsel so it lies nicely at the center of the bow.

 sparkle-bow-3beginning-crimpsparkle-bow-4crimping

 Step 4

With a hot glue gun, place at least 4-5 small dabs of glue around the bow – one on each loop and each tail – just off center. Place the final dab right in the center of the bow. Work swiftly as the glue dries very quickly.

sparkle-bow-13holding-w-glue-dabs

 Step 5

Place the tinsel right at the center of the bow and push firmly down, using care not to burn your fingers in the hot glue. Check that the tinsel is firmly in place. Remove any hot glue gun cobwebs (slender strands) that are typical when working with hot glue.

sparkle-bow-6-adhereing-tinsel

 Step 6

Once the tinsel garland is in place, hold the strands away from the center. Add another dab of glue to the center of the tinsel. Quickly add a complementary colored bead to the center of the bow. Place the thread nub into the warm glue. Apply pressure to the bead to ensure its firmly attached. Remove any glue gun cobwebs.

sparkle-bow-9-thread-nubsparkle-bow-14glue-dabsparkle-bow-15securing-bead

 Step 7

The finished bow.

sparkle-bow-finished

Happy trimming!

~Melissa

What bows do you like to make? Hop onto our Facebook page and tell us!

 


Mentors Make the Difference

December 2nd, 2016 by Joelle

revised-mainMentors are the most valuable resources you can tap into when it comes to growing your career.

The idea of launching or growing a pet-related business, becoming a certified master groomer, or entering the competition arena can be intimidating. Let’s face it – growth and change is challenging. Even if you are brave enough to take the leap, it is easy to get derailed.

Did you know that over 70% of Fortune 500 companies offer mentoring to their employees? It’s a way to attract, motivate, develop, and retain employees while increasing productivity. Mentoring and working with consultants helps successful companies maintain their cutting edge. In the pet service industry, the same tactics can boost your business and career.

When I was first starting out, I sought out the wisdom of mentors. I was only 22 when I started my first business and was still in college. One of my first advisors was my college business professor. He encouraged me to open my original business after grading a final paper – a business plan for mobile dog grooming.  I left college in 1983 before earning my degree to start Four Paws Mobile Grooming.

The business grew so rapidly, I had six mobile grooming units within five years. I knew needed help growing my business while expanding my own skills.

How did I do it? Through mentoring and coaching.

I joined a local women’s business group and networked with business leaders and service providers. It’s been over 30 years and I still work with a few of the people I met through that organization.

In the early 80’s I learned about voluntary certification testing for pet groomers. I went to clinics, attended workshops, went to trade shows (not that there were many!), and networked with the visionaries of that time. Ultimately, I formed close mentoring relationships with several of them.

I was introduced to the AKC conformation dog show world. I networked with breeders and handlers who taught me about structure, movement, coat maintenance, and advanced grooming skills.

In exchange for their wisdom, I did whatever I could to help THEM. I helped breeders and handlers with dog maintenance, conditioning, and grooming. I did whatever I could to assist visionaries with their projects. I paid my dues with business groups, attending meetings and listening closely to speakers. Every experience helped me grow and improved my business.

The great mentors boost your confidence. Whenever you start something new, there is uncertainty. That’s normal. Many people can overcome that feeling by themselves, while others need more guidance. With a good mentor, you are learning from someone who is already where you want to be. They know exactly what it takes to get there and can lead you through that uncertainty.

Mentors are the most valuable resources you can tap into when it comes to growing your career.

When you first start out, you don’t need someone at the very top of the field. Not only is it unrealistic, it’s not always helpful. There’s a good chance the advice of mentor at the very top would be intimidating or not appropriate for your current circumstances.

Learning is like stairs on a staircase. Working with a mentor allows you to rapidly climb the staircase – but you still can’t eliminate the steps. As you look for inspiration, look for someone or something which is a few levels ahead of you. As you climb the career staircase, continue to look for mentoring situations that will inspire you to new levels.

The internet has changed the learning landscape. There are now a wider variety of mentoring options. Some are free or inexpensive thanks to today’s technology. Many of them self-guided. Others follow outlines or structured programs. Still others utilize social media as a form of networking and sharing ideas.

Here are 9 ways to learn from others who have already walked the walk.

  1. Blogs and Podcasts. Information is just a few keystrokes away. The beauty of blogs and podcasts is that they are free. Are you taking advantage of them?
  2. Books are indispensable. Pick a topic – any topic. You will find so many books that will provide clarity that may be just a download away.
  3. Training Programs. Training programs can be hands-on or online. More are added every day.
  4. Facebook Groups. Facebook groups offer an amazing community of inspiration. Many of them offer free mentoring on specific topics.
  5. Study Groups. We think of these more in high school and in college but they are still valuable as you grow your career. Hosting a monthly local study group is a great way to network with other pet professionals in a relaxed and casual setting.
  6. Clinics and Workshops. These are typically smaller, more intimate lectures/demonstrations led by a top field professional. Grooming clinics and workshops can generally be found in larger communities.
  7. Membership Sites. There are amazing subscription-based sites hosted by industry leaders. A wide array of topics include business, finance, marketing, social media, leadership, grooming, and much more.
  8. Coaches and Consultants. Professional coaches earn their living by helping others succeed. A talented consultant can kick start your career by providing the motivation and inspiration you need to keep moving ahead.
  9. Personal Mentors. Finding a personal mentor can be quite challenging. Potential candidates at the height of their careers have huge demands on their time. For most of them, taking on mentees outside of their own personal network is not easily possible. Some may make exceptions for the right person.

shutterstock_162619325-career-coachingCompensation for an experts’ time depends on the amount of time and effort they have invested in the process. Sometimes a simple hand-written thank you note is enough. Offering your assistance in exchange for their time is another idea. There are thousands of ways to show your appreciation, both during the learning process, as well as long afterwards. It’s best to discuss the topic of compensation up front to avoid misunderstandings.

Your need for fresh mentors always changes. Skill sets will grow. Experiences will expand. You will gain knowledge as you apply yourself. It’s likely you will outgrow your early mentors. That’s OK. It’s not uncommon for mentors to eventually become your peers. Who knows, you may end up becoming friends or even collaborating on future projects!

Experience is a priceless tool. Experience can’t be bought – it can only be earned or shared. Talented mentors will share their knowledge. They can help you achieve your goals by relying on their own experience to guide you.

I recently received a personal note thanking me for writing Notes from the Grooming Table. Even though I did not personally mentor this individual firsthand, the knowledge I shared through my book was indispensable to her career success. I was blown away.

Always remember to appreciate the mentoring opportunities created for you, whether it be a blog, podcast, book, training program, workshop, or other mentoring scenario. Your success will be a product of that knowledge and experience.

Happy trimming,

~Melissa


How to Avoid Clipper Irritation

November 17th, 2016 by Joelle

rr-main-imageClipper irritation is also commonly known as clipper sensitivity and clipper burn – but what is it?

Clipper irritation is an irritation to the top layer of skin. While it’s not necessarily a severe injury that can occur during pet grooming, it will be itchy and uncomfortable to the pet. This discomfort causes the dog to scratch and/or lick the area. The skin gets moist.  If left unchecked or untreated, the scratching and licking can cause an open wound very quickly.

Unfortunately, clipper irritation is not always detectable right after it happens. This means that unknown to both the groomer and the pet owner, the dog may be going home with skin irritation. The condition goes unnoticed until the pet begins to aggravate the area. In its early stages, the skin might moisten or turn a light pink. Other times, the signs may not be visible, but the dog can certainly feel the discomfort.

Depending on the severity of the irritation, the skin might be light pink, or in severe cases, bright red or even bloody. The skin tingles uncomfortably. The natural reaction is that a dog will lick and scratch at the site. The sharp edges of recently clipped toenails can make matters worse – and if the pet starts scratching at his face, you can have a real problem on your hands. A mild case of clipper irritation can instantly turn into a severe one with a couple bats of the back foot with freshly trimmed toenails.

Clipper irritation is one of the more common injuries in grooming salons. It doesn’t just happen to inexperienced or new groomers. I’ve seen it in the competition ring and Grooming Certifiers have reported it at certification test sites.

From a business standpoint, what happens when a pet has been affected by clipper irritation? Simple. Owners will not return to your place of business if it becomes a common problem.

I was just reviewing a Learn2GroomDogs.com video. Well into the video, the Training Partner changed clippers and started clipping a Poodle’s face. She did not tell the audience what blade she was using but I could tell it was closer than the one she had used previously. I was guessing it was #10 or #15 blade length. Weeks after filming was completed, I shot off an email asking the Training Partner what blade length she had chosen to use. I wanted to have our video editor type it on the screen for our members because I knew it was going to be a question. I wanted to make sure I had the correct length.

I was shocked when she replied it was about a #30 blade length.

In my experience, the shorter the blade length, the greater the risk for injury. For most pet dogs, a #10 or #15 blade is considered a safe length to start with if it is used correctly. Some stylists can go shorter and not have any issues. On pets that are extremely sensitive, even longer blades such as a #9 or a #7F are safer alternatives.

How do you decide what blade to use? It all depends upon two things:

  • the dog’s skin
  • how the groomer runs their clippers

For over 15 years, I’ve watched this very talented Training Partner groom dogs. I have NEVER seen any clipper related issues with her work. She almost always uses a #30 blade on all her close work. So how can she get away with using a clipper on a #30 blade setting safely while others could not?

It forced me to think a little deeper – deeper than I go into in my book, Notes From the Grooming Table. In the book, I talk primarily about five key elements.

  1. holding the clipper
  2. keeping your hand supple
  3. the amount of pressure applied
  4. cleanliness of the coat
  5. clipper tip

Those five areas cover the basics of running a clipper effectively. However, there’s a little bit more to know if you want to consistently avoid any type of skin irritation, sensitivity, or clipper burn. To do that, we need to focus on how much pressure is being applied, the sensitivity of the pet’s skin, and the heat of the blade.

Applied Pressure

grc-detaching-bladeProper pressure is the most critical component of clipping for both quality and safety. Press too lightly, and you won’t get the area clipped smoothly. Press too hard, and you’re sure to cause skin irritation. So, what is the proper balance between the two?

That depends.

On slightly longer blades, a tiny bit more pressure can be applied without incident than on super close blades. It will take you a few more passes to get a smooth, even cut. But for the inexperienced or new groomer that is still learning, a #10 blade is a good moderate blade to begin with.

As clipper technique improves, some stylists move to a shorter blade. Why? It offers a slightly cleaner look and takes a little less time. With super close cutting blades, such as #30 or #40, you can go even faster.

Be warned – if you opt to go with a very short blade, you need to be extremely careful. Your clipper technique must be absolutely spot on. Many experienced stylists with fabulous clipper technique can use #30 or even #40 blade lengths to quickly and easily get the quality of trimming they are looking for without sacrificing the well-being of the pet.

Choosing a blade length for close clipper work is not something to take lightly. You need to identify how proficient you are with your clipper technique. You can then choose the best option that does not jeopardize the safety of the pet. The last thing any of us want is to cause discomfort or injury to a pet.

Skin Sensitivity

Just like people, every dog is a little bit different. A person with a very fair complexion will typically have more sensitive skin. Folks with a deeper skin tone have less delicate skin. Puppies and younger dogs have more delicate skin than adult dogs. Smaller dogs are more sensitive than larger dogs. Fine coated pets are prone to more issues with clipping than heavier coated pets.

If a dog has dark pigment around its eyes and nose area, chances are the skin is a little bit tougher than those with light pigment. It’s very common on dogs with light pigment around their eyes and pink or light brown noses to have hypersensitive skin. Sometimes coat color and density levels will come into play, as well. Thicker coated pets are typically much less sensitive than those with baby fine fur. Also, small, light-colored dogs (white, buff, apricot, red – even some chocolate) can be more prone to sensitivity.

The skin can be conditioned. This is a common practice with dogs who are destined for the show ring. This is a critical step, especially with dogs that have close clipper work done on a routine basis. Prospective show dogs are started out with close clipper work at a very young age. It is repeated on a regular basis each month during the early stages of the grooming process. Not only does a condition the skin, it also teaches the puppy to enjoy the entire grooming process.

With pet dogs that have not gone through this conditioning process, we need to be more careful. With all dogs, the shorter the blade length, the more cautious you need to be. With supersensitive skin types, you need to be even more diligent about gentle and proper clipper technique.

i-do-not-want-to-breast-feed-bottle-feeding-your-baby_4Heat of the Blade

With most metal clipper blades, the longer and faster they run, the warmer they get. Each clipper will be a little different. To be safe, you need to regularly check how warm the blade is getting once they have started running.

To check the heat of a blade, simply touch it to your forearm as though you were testing the formula in a baby’s bottle. You can also touch it to your cheek. Either way, if it is heating up too quickly or is uncomfortable to the touch, ice the blade down with a blade coolant or switch out to a fresh, cool blade.

What to Do If You Suspect Clipper Irritation

Whenever a dog is suspected to be prone to clipper irritation, clipper sensitivity, or clipper burn, I encourage stylists to be proactive in heading it off. Remember, in many cases, you will NOT know if a pet has been affected by it until AFTER they leave the salon. There are many different things you can do but these are the top four in my book.

  1. Choose a blade length that matches the skin sensitivity level of the pet. Longer blades are best for dogs with a greater chance of sensitivity. Minimize how many times your clippers go over one area on the dog.
  2. Always utilize gentle, soft, and supple clipping techniques in sensitive areas such as the head, between the pads, the groin, or under the tail. Test your technique by running the clipper down your forearm, simulating the same tip and pressure you would apply on the dog when running the clipper. Is your technique comfortable to you?
  3. Apply a non-greasy skin soothing ointment or spray after clipping potentially sensitive areas. There are many available designed for pets. Personally, I recommend Skin Works by Coat Handler.
  4. If you even remotely suspect clipper irritation might be a problem, talk to your client BEFORE they leave the salon. Communicate with them about what to look for, and what they can do about it if it becomes a problem at home.
  5. Send the client home with some of your favorite product. Treatments can be packaged in small self-sealing plastic bags or soak a few cotton balls in a liquid relief product. Once they are premoistened, tuck them into a self-sealing plastic bag. Instruct the client on how to utilize the product if they notice the dog starting to rub or itch the affected area.
If you even remotely suspect clipper irritation might be a problem, talk to your client BEFORE they leave the salon. Communicate with them about what to look for, and what they can do about it if it becomes a problem at home.

When I was working with a new client, my initial blade of choice was always a #10 blade for close clipper work. I feel it is a moderate length blade that is relatively safe. In my new client consultations, I discuss this if we are dealing with any breed requiring close clipping, especially in the head area. Depending on how their pet reacted to this moderate length blade, we could make adjustments in future appointments if they had any issues or concerns.

How do you decide which blade you should use? Always err on the side of caution. I would rather sacrifice a little bit of quality by going with the slightly longer blade then dealing with clipper irritation.

Remember, you can always go shorter down the road as your techniques improve and you learn how to work with different skin types. Your primary concern should always be the safety and health of your pet clients.

Happy trimming,

~Melissa

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10 Ways to Keep Your Sanity This Holiday Season

November 10th, 2016 by Joelle

firstBy now, busy salons are bracing for the holiday rush. Thanksgiving. Hanukkah. Christmas. Are you ready?

This isn’t only your busiest season, it’s also the end of the year. It can make or break your earning goals. Will you finish off 2016 with a bang? Will your books be full for January and February of next year?

I love this time year. It forces us to be on top of our game. To be organized. To be ready. To have our days planned. To keep our communications clear with fellow team members and our customers. To know our limitations.

Let’s not forget what the real reason of the holidays is: to spend time with your family and friends. Sure, we want to be there for our customers but not at the expense of our family and close friends.

Back at the height of my mobile grooming business, I lost sight of this. I, along with most of my team, were booked the gills. I often joked if my clients didn’t tip me in cookies and nuts, I would’ve forgotten to eat altogether during this time of year.

My work day would typically start at 5 o’clock in the morning. It would start by preparing all the client’s holiday gift bags for my team of stylists.  By 8 o’clock in the morning Istress was at my first stop. I would typically groom seven, eight, or even nine dogs a day in my mobile unit. This was before the age of generators. With each stop, I had to plug in. What a pain! Those chords were long, heavy, and cold on your hands! Running out of water was a real concern, too. After all, it was Michigan. The temperatures were plummeting below the freezing zone. Many times I would not get back to base until well after 9 o’clock at night. By the time December 24 rolled around I was so exhausted all I could do was fall into bed. One year I totally missed all Christmas Eve activities as well as most of Christmas morning.

That was the year I came to my senses. I love to be busy. I also love to take care my customers. But I had pushed myself too hard. I learned that year how take control of my schedule, to create a plan, and how to use the word “No.”

Here are the few of the things I did to reclaim my sanity so I could enjoy the holiday season with my friends and family.

1. Blocked out time for myself. Long before the holidays arrived, I blocked out times for myself and family events. Holiday parties. Holiday shopping. I made sure I had enough me time scheduled so that I could be at the top of my game for both my customers and my family.

food2. Maintained a healthy diet. Seriously – we cannot survive on cookies alone – although I have tried! After a long day standing at a grooming table – who wants to spend time cooking! Long before the holidays hit, I would prepare healthy dinners and freeze them in individual portions. I learned my crockpot was my friend. For breakfast and lunches, I made sure I had plenty of healthy items that I could just grab. Cut up fruits and vegetables. Lean proteins. Water. Today, with Pinterest – there are plenty of ideas of how to put this together. And when all else failed, a collection of my favorite restaurants I could call for takeout as I drove back to base.

3. Stockpiled supplies. As we went into the holiday season, I made sure that we were well stocked. Shampoo. Conditioner. Specialty shampoos. Paper towel. Laundry soap. Cotton balls. Quick stop. Kool Lube. We were very proactive with our ordering activities to ensure we had everything we needed and would not run out.

4. Maintained my mobile unit/salon. The last thing any of us need is a hiccup with our equipment during our peak season. With our vans, I made sure everything was serviced prior to the onslaught of the holiday season. Oil changes. Brake jobs. Maintenance to the interior workings of the units. Replaced old or tired equipment. I carried this pre-maintenance over to my salon, as well.

5. Premade bows. I am a bow girl. I love their creativity and the sparkle they add to the finished grooming job. It’s like icing on the cake. During the holiday season, our most festive bows were all premade. Glitter bows. Sparkle bows. Pom-pom bows. Tulle bows. Beaded bows. Ribbon insert bows.  I hated taking the time to make them on-the-fly. All our special holiday bows were made well in advance. I would choose the bows myself based on what I saw in the client’s home or I would let the client select their own bows in the salons.

focused_interviews6. Focus. Focus. Focus. When grooming, I used every speed trick in the book. Prepping. Bathing. Drying. Trimming. Wherever I was, in an instant, I could see a clock. I paid attention to minutes – not hours. I would set mental time goals on every single step of the grooming process and fight to stick to them.

7. List keeper. I love lists. Once it’s on paper I can get it out of my mind. My lists allow me to remember the finer details and stay on track. There’s great gratification in crossing things off a list. When it comes to holidays, I have master lists for everything. Shopping lists. Cleaning lists. Gift giving list. To do lists. Decorating lists. If it is something you must think about each year, consider building a master list for the task. I have a folder on my computer called organizational templates. I store all my master lists in that single spot.

8. Took care of my best customers first. I started pre-booking my most regular customers starting in September. I would start with my weekly and biweekly customers. Once they had their appointments locked in, then I would move to the three-week and four-week clients. I would finish off the pre-booking with my five and six-week clients. Typically, by that point, there was very few openings left in my schedule.

9. Pre-booked appointments. Traditionally, January and February in the northern climates can be somewhat slow for most grooming salons. Pre-booking is so important this time a year. By taking advantage of the high traffic in November and December, it’s easy to pre-book January and February 2017. Smart pre-booking can increase your income without adding a single new client.

relax10. Took the week off between Christmas and New Year’s. For my businesses, which are strictly grooming-related, I always reserved that week to regroup. To rest. To allow myself some “me” time. Some years the entire team would take the week off. Other years we would take a more relaxed approach to work by not grooming any pets. After all, most of your clients have already been groomed. We would take that time to address special projects needing to be done in the business.  Deep clean. Paint. Replace worn and tired equipment. By the time January 2 rolled around, we were all refreshed and ready to begin a new year.

At one point my life, I dreaded the holiday season. The demands of my grooming services and my time made it so that I couldn’t enjoy this time of year. Once I reclaimed my time – my life – the holidays once again became that special time of year.

With a little forethought, you can set the stage. You will be able to generate the maximum amount of income from your busiest time of the year without losing your sanity.

Happy trimming!

~Melissa

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4 Ways You Can Make a Better Day

November 3rd, 2016 by Joelle

dogIt’s Monday morning.  You walk into your salon with coffee in hand and look at your appointment book.  Hmmm… You’ve overbooked – and by the look of things, you’ve also scheduled too many oversize dogs.  What’s this?  Uh oh.  THAT customer is coming in today.  The one you can never seem to please.  And your first dog always decorates your table with unpleasant treats throughout the entire groom.

We’ve all had days like this. It’s all part of being a professional pet groomer.

I still remember the day I had 16 dogs on my schedule. When I first looked at my workload, I was totally overwhelmed.

But then I really looked at it…

…and chose positivity over panic.

I changed my thought process and my attitude.  I couldn’t change my schedule, but I could change my outlook.  I couldn’t change the fact that there was a lot of work ahead of me, but if I looked for the positives, I would see how much I stood to gain.

By the end of the day, a lot of dogs were going to look and feel a lot better.  And since I had been a commission-based stylist, I was going to have a lot of money in my pocket – not including the tips that were sure to come! This was going to be a good day!

Have you ever stopped and thought about how a day is going to unfold?  Has it ever dawned on you that you are ultimately in control of the day?  You are.

brooke

Ultimately, we choose our thoughts.  We can also control what we choose to believe.

ford

So how do you turn your thoughts and beliefs into affirmative actions?  Is the glass half-full or half-empty?  It’s both – and how you choose to interpret how you feel about that fact is what forms your outlook.

Here are 4 ways to mentally take charge of your grooming day that will boost both your outlook and your productivity.

Planning

anchors-aweighUltimately, you oversee your time and choose how to manage it.  To get the most out of your day it makes sense to plan it as efficiently as possible.

When I had a lot of dogs to get through, I chose an assembly line grooming technique.  This works whenever you have two or more pets to work on.  If you are mobile and the family has multiple pets, take them all at once to your mobile unit.

This is the order that has always worked efficiently for me.  I started with bathing the largest and furriest dog, working down the line to the smallest, lightest coated pet.  Once all my pets were bathed, I started the active drying process.  To determine which dog to start with, I simply reversed the order.  I started with the smallest, lightest coated pet working up to the furriest.  Once everybody was bathed and dried, I started the finish process.  Typically, I started with whatever was the fastest and easiest to move through the rotation.

Always look at your whole day, first.  Take a little bit of time to plan and organize it based on what has been scheduled.  No matter how chaotic it looks, if you believe you can get through it – you will.  That’s half the battle!

Focus

All of us are given 168 hours per week.  For those of us that work full time, about one quarter of it will be spent at work.  That’s not a bad trade if you are passionate about your job.  Plus, it offers the opportunity to earn a living by doing what you enjoy.

Yet, no matter how passionate you are about grooming – it can become unsatisfying or even stressful if you do not learn how to manage your time and focus.

I know stylists that are extremely happy doing just four dogs a day.  If you are one of those groomers – consider yourself very fortunate.  You have the luxury of time.  There are many professional groomers who rely heavily on grooming to support their families and need to groom more pets to sustain their lifestyle and standard of living.

Most efficient, seasoned pros can do between 6 and 12 dogs a day without sacrificing safety or quality.  If they work with an assistant, their productivity only goes up.

How do they do it?

They are totally focused on the task.  They are not distracted by phone calls, emails, Facebook, or idle chatter with coworkers.  They are 100% focused on the pet.  Most experienced pet stylists can turn a small to medium size pet in 30 to 60 minutes.  That includes everything:  bath, blow dry, nail trim, ear cleaning, and full brush-out/haircut.  Larger or extremely heavy coated dogs may take a bit longer.

If you are struggling to hit the time mark of one hour or less per dog, eliminate distractions.  Start timing yourself on a regular basis.  Break the grooming process apart and set time goals for each step.  Most people will find the bathing and drying process is the major time hog that can be improved upon.

Don’t Be Perfect

Of course, you need to produce quality results to bring clients back.  But does every pet that walks out your door honestly need to be show ring perfect?  Really perfect?  Not a hair out of place?  Probably not.

Focus on the fundamentals.  Keep the pet safe and injury free.  Get them squeaky, squeaky clean.  Remove all mats, tangles, and loose undercoat.  Get them blown out to perfection (this is where you can shine – most pet parents do not own a high velocity blow dryer).  Get smooth clipper work.  Trim those nails and make sure the ears are clean.  And don’t forget – a super cute face.

Do not nit-pick the job to death.  Even in the contest ring, the grooms are not perfect.  Do the best you can and then move to the next pet.

The Word “No”

There is unbelievable power in this word.  It doesn’t have to be negative and shouldn’t feel uncomfortable to say.

All of us are given 24 hours in a day.  It is up to us to decide how we are going to use it.  If you are overloaded or getting close, the most powerful word in your vocabulary is, “No.”

However, before you use it (especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed) analyze your day.

  • What can you do to make the day more manageable?
  • Do the problems stem from your overall attitude?
  • Is it a lack of experience and/or knowledge of skills causing the problem?
  • Are inefficient products or equipment slowing you down?

If you are truly being pushed to the brink and can’t squeeze anything more out of your grooming day, it might be time to embrace the “less is better” concept.

Even though we all get to choose what we say yes to, there are trade-offs for every choice we make.  If our work days are already full and we say yes to one thing – one more dog, one more customer – we must say no to another item on our agenda.

I have two suggestions for this dilemma.

First, if you have too many customers – and you don’t want to hire more help – you need to eliminate a few clients.  One of the easiest, and most rewarding ways to streamline your client base is to raise your grooming prices.  By raising your prices, you will automatically weed out the customers that do not value or can afford your services.  Typically, you can free up your time without sacrificing your earning capacity.

Your second option is to focus on your most valuable clients.  Those regular clients you see every six weeks or less.  Take the time to schedule them in advance.  Taking control of them first makes it much easier to say “no” to customers who don’t use your services as often.  Many highly regarded pet stylists book a year in advance.  They take full control of their schedule and take care of their most valuable customers.

Both scenarios ultimately utilize the word “no.”  No, you will not cut a special deal for certain clients.  And no, you will not take any clients that do not fit your ideal regular client profile unless you honestly have room to work them in.

Always be aware of your attitudes and how they are affecting your actions.  Always learn from your past but then let it go.  Look forward to creating the future you want.

Life is full of variables.  Our perception becomes our reality.  Whatever you choose to believe will either help you move forward or hold you back.

The choice is yours.  Make it a good one.

~Happy trimming,

Melissa


 
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