5 Steps to Mastering Any Skill

August 24th, 2017 by Joelle

Mastering SkillsLearning to master skills helps us get ahead in our work and lives. To do this you need to have a deep understanding of the skill you are trying to perfect. You also need the dedication to put in the needed time and deliberate practice.

“Deliberate practice,” was introduced by researcher, Anders Ericsson who studied this concept for over 30 years. His research shows HOW you practice matters much more than HOW MUCH you practice.

Deliberate practice isn’t running a few miles each day, strumming a guitar for 20 minutes each morning, or grooming a few dogs each day. Deliberate practice is much more purposeful and focused. It might take you five to ten years of deliberate practice to truly master a skill.

To improve anything, you must push beyond your comfort zone. This process can be very difficult. Letting go of what is safe and learning to get comfortable with the unknown is hard for most of us. For some, it is impossible. But when you put sincere effort toward improving a weakness, you will grow.

To become great, experts focus on improving their weaknesses. Practicing on easy things never leads to improvement. Working hard just to work will exhaust you. Working purposefully towards improving is the secret to success.

It doesn’t matter whether you are trying to master a specific breed profile, specialize in a grooming technique, increase your speed, or skillfully run your business. To master any task, you need to focus and practice in a purposeful way.

Here are five ideas to help you stay focused on a skill you want to master.

  1. Deliberate practice has one objective: to improve performance. According to Ericsson, “People who play tennis once a week for years don’t get any better if they do the same thing each time. Deliberate practice is about changing your performance, setting new goals and straining yourself to reach a bit higher each time.”
  2. Perfect practice makes perfect. Repetition matters. Do it repeatedly. Football legends don’t practice their specialty briefly at the end of their practice sessions. They repeat the fundamentals of their specialty hundreds of times each week.
  3. Get consistent feedback. You must monitor your progress so you can adjust. Without feedback, you won’t know how to improve. Seek out a mentor or a coach in the area you would like to master. Asked them for consistent criticism and advice.
  4. Identify your weakest area. Focus on improving your weakest skill. Then move on. Don’t beat yourself up.
  5. Be prepared. The process is going to be challenging. It will physically and mentally exhaust you. Mastery takes commitment, focus, and extreme effort.

IMG_20150430_073120When I began a career with dogs, it didn’t take long before I knew I wanted to perfect my skills. I wanted to master pet grooming. I found mentors and coaches who could give me feedback. I read books. I studied images – photos of my own work as well as champions. I intently watched master pet stylists at work. I attended clinics and workshops. I tested my skills in the certification and competition rings. I always asked for feedback and focused on improving my work. I practiced. And practiced. And practiced.

Today, I work with a business coach. Almost every week we have a 90-minute conference call. We focus on our weakest link and ways to improve it. The following week, we review what worked and what didn’t work – then move on to the next weak item on the agenda. Having a coach keeps me accountable, focused, and on track.

Remember – start small. Self-improvement can feel overwhelming. You can’t take on everything. If you do, you’ll feel defeated and never succeed at any of it. Instead, choose one or two skills to focus on at a time. Break down the skill into manageable chunks. Set goals. Get feedback and track your progress.

Along the learning journey, stop to reflect. When you want to move from good… to great… to mastery, you need to stop and spend time reflecting on what you’re doing. If you don’t, the new skill won’t stick. Talk to your mentor, coach, or someone you respect as you go. Talking about your progress assists in getting valuable feedback. It keeps you accountable and it cements the changes.

Be patient with yourself. You are not going to reach perfection right away. Mastery requires perfecting many smaller skills and then putting them all together. It could take months to perfect a single new sub-skill. It will take years to truly master a particular technique or specialize in a field.

You can use these techniques on anything you want to improve or master. Many of us can do something well. True mastery takes it to a much deeper level.

Do you have what it takes to become a master?

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat are the things you’re working to perfect every day? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.

 


How to Handle Tardy and No-Show Clients

July 13th, 2017 by Joelle

Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy rule for solving the problems of tardy or no-show clients. The good news is that you have lots of options to help deal with it. Depending on how busy you are, cancellations can either be a blessing or a curse. In either case, if you have a client who is chronically dismissive or disrespectful of your time, you need to be proactive and correct the problem.

Our kennel, Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa, experienced 68 reservation cancellations over the 4th of July holiday. During the summer months, Whiskers runs at over 100% occupancy rate with its 180 rooms. During peak holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Spring Break, Whiskers charges a $50 deposit for all reservations. This deposit is nonrefundable if the cancellation takes place two weeks prior to their check-in date. In the past, the deposit has not been charged for Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Labor Day. That will be changing.

For years we’ve tracked grooming appointment cancellations at The Paragon School of Pet Grooming.  Despite our continual efforts to knock the rate down, its remains a persistent 10%.

In the pet grooming industry, time is money. Clients who are chronically tardy or don’t show up for their appointments create havoc for both your schedule and your pocketbook.

It’s frustrating.

It’s disrespectful.

It’s rude.

(However, if you are overbooked, it can also be a blessing.)

There is no perfect solution for this problem. Everyone has a slightly different take on this situation. Some salons run on a very tight schedule while others are more relaxed. And let’s face it, there are times when the client has a legitimate excuse. So, what do you do?

late8 Ways to deal with Tardy and No-show Clients.

  1. Call or text to confirm the day ahead. Sometimes clients just need is a gentle reminder to avoid a scheduling conflict.
  2. Breathe. For some pet stylists, having a cancellation is not a big deal. It doesn’t happen that often. The clients are well-trained and respectful of their appointments and time. In some cases, it might even be a relief.
  3. Overbook. Service businesses do this all the time to ensure they are full. The key here is to have a variety of pets on the books. If there are a few easy jobs sprinkled between the more difficult ones, you will get through your day, even if your cancellation rate is below the 10% mark.
  4. If they are 10 or 15 minutes late – call them. If they can make it into the salon within a few minutes, keep the appointment. It’s easier than trying to refill it – unless you don’t want to! If you opt not to honor their appointment, rebook them for another time. Don’t wait 30 or more minutes and then explode when they walk in the door expecting to keep their appointment. It’s better to make the call right away and know what your next step should be. This method offers you more control over the situation. With some clients, you need to personally point out why it’s important for you and/or your team to have set appointment times. This can be done in a friendly – yet firm – professional manner. This tactic also works well with non-chronic cancellations.
  5. Have a 3 Strike Rule. Some people are just forgetful. Others are just plain disrespectful. Others are downright rude. If the client will not respect your time, you don’t have to continue to put up with it. Occasionally, there are solid reasons why someone misses an appointment. Life happens. The 3 Strike Rule covers clients who are chronically late or don’t show up for their appointments. If you’re going to set up a 3 Strike Rule, what are the consequences? Do you refuse to groom the dog in the future? Charge a cancellation fee? Do you have a client prepay a nonrefundable amount for the scheduled next appointment? If you make a rule, there must be consequences. Make a policy, then consistently stick with it.
  6. If the client cancels, fails to show up, or is tardy beyond being able to groom them at their appointed time, reschedule them. Don’t do them a favor by squeezing them in the next day or two. Push them out at least two weeks. I’ve known many stylists that are so busy they have NO flexibility left in their schedules. If a client misses today’s appointment they can’t get another one until their next pre-scheduled appointment. This works exceptionally well for stylists that are booked out weeks, months, or even a year in advance. It can be a hard lesson for the client but it is generally very effective. Rarely do they miss another appointment.
  7. For clients who are chronically tardy or don’t show up, charge a late or no-show fee. You won’t always get it, but if they book another appointment, you can tack it on to their next grooming fee. You could also consider raising their base price to include an inconvenience fee.
  8. If you have a client who simply cannot adhere to a schedule or does not respect your time, have them prepay prior to their grooming appointment. This should be a nonrefundable amount. After all, your time is valuable and it’s worth money. If they cancel, you can’t get your time back nor the money you would have earned if they had kept their appointment.

late-payment-excusesAre there exceptions to your rules? Absolutely.

If you don’t already track how many cancellations you have each day and each week – start tracking it. Find out what your cancellation average is per day. Once you know the number, you can be proactive in correcting the problem.

Another way to look at it is from a dollar standpoint. At Paragon, our average cancellation rate is 10%. If you apply the 10% rate to your situation and you do 20 dogs a day at $50, that starts to add up! That translates into losing two dogs or $100 every day! Times that by five days a week and you’re at $500 of lost revenue. To me, it’s worth taking the time to simply call and remind people of their upcoming appointment the day before!

We are in the business of building positive relationships with our customers, both the two-legged and four-legged variety. Your personality and the type of relationship with your clients dictates how firmly you adhere to the demands on your time. Remember, these customers not only affect you and your time, they ultimately affect your schedule and your other clients. You need to be warm, caring, and maintain your professionalism.

Just because you are warm and caring does not mean you can’t set rules and boundaries. Remember, you can still provide great customer service and have a mutually respectful relationship that benefits both you and your client.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_white How do you deal with this issue? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us what works for you.


Hiring for the Spring Rush

April 27th, 2017 by Joelle

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.

 


Building Teamwork Within Your Salon

February 16th, 2017 by Joelle
Grooming Department Success is Determined By its Team Members.

Creating teamwork within a grooming department is a challenge. Getting ANY group of people to work in harmony with one another is no easy task.

Teamwork requires four things:

  1. Communication (sharing information)
  2. Leadership (direction and guidance)
  3. Accountability (rules and boundaries)
  4. Clarity (understanding the cause and purpose for every task)

Teamwork helps achieve goals. It also creates an enjoyable, rewarding place to work.

TeamworkOver the years, I have had varied levels of success with fostering teamwork. I’ve had times when the entire organization was working together as a single unit. We were energized and excited. We met objectives. We knocked goals out of the park. Life was good.

I have also had times when there was very little teamwork. Frustration and negativity took over. Meeting objectives was almost impossible. Goals went out the window. More than once I questioned if the company would survive or if it was worth the effort to keep it going.

Here’s what I’ve discovered.

  1. You can’t succeed without strong and effective leadership.
  2. Individuals/organizations need to understand WHY they do what they do.
  3. Systems are crucial to duplicate desirable performance.

Building teamwork requires strong leadership that explains WHY the work is being done. Every activity is begun knowing exactly what the end will be. Systems must be made that ensure the activity is done the same way, every time.

For a business to thrive, everybody needs to work together. Whether your team is made up of just two or fifty people, everybody needs to be accountable for results. Those results are tied to the goals and objectives of the business. Everybody needs to understand what role(s) they play in the success of the company.

Years ago, I learned about a formula in Keeping Employees Accountable for Results by Brian Cole Miller. It’s called the SIMPLE approach to accountability.

S = Set expectations

I = Invite commitment

M = Measure progress

P = Provide feedback

L = Link to consequences

E = Evaluate effectiveness

 

2017-02-15_1319S = Set Expectations

  • Success = how well a staff focuses and works toward a common theme/goal.
  • Employees need to know what is expected of them.
  • The clearer the expectations are, the easier it will be to uphold those expectations down the road.

I = Invite Commitment

  • Team members are more likely to cooperate when they understand three things: what the goals are, what’s in it for them, and how the goals will help move the business forward.
  • Once they understand these three things, they are more likely to commit to the goals and being held accountable for the results.

M = Measure Progress

  • Once they’re committed to the goals, you need to track their progress.
  • Goals must be measurable. If you can’t clearly see where you are, you can’t see how far you need to go.
  • Track progress daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually. Keep it simple and consistent.

P = Provide Feedback

  • Team members need feedback to know how well they are doing and where they can improve.
  • Feedback opens the door for problem-solving discussions and follow-up actions.
  • Understanding expectations, followed by honest feedback, is the backbone of accountability.
  • When providing feedback, focus on the behavior, not the person. Be specific. Do not mention characteristics like attitudes or intentions.

L = Link to Consequences

  • Teams need to understand the consequences of actions toward a goal. Ideally, these consequences are built into the discussion of goals and objectives so that expectations are clear from the start.
  • Consequences are not rewards or punishments. They are simply the natural result of behavior tied to the goals and objectives of the business.

E = Evaluate Effectiveness

  • Create a system for regular and timely performance reviews.
  • Review how the process has been handled. Praise positive performance. Fine-tune lackluster performance. Redirect underperformance. Explain how their performance affects progress toward the goals and objectives of the company.
  • Be consistent, honest, and fair to the entire team.

For goals to be meaningful and useful, they must be tied to larger organizational ambitions. In other words, you need to identify the “big picture” and work backward to set smaller milestones that will lead you there.

Staff members need to understand the roles they play in business. If they don’t, they are likely to feel disenchanted, lost, or hopeless. Team members at every level should be able to communicate exactly how their efforts feed into the larger business objectives – WHY the business exists, at all.

Teamwork is not just about how effective and efficient a group is, it’s also about the relationships in that group. Always remember, it takes work to create and maintain a positive relationship. Building a healthy marriage, raising a family, training a dog, winning at soccer, and growing a business all require time and effort.

Remember, anytime you’re dealing with more than one person, teamwork is needed. Successful teamwork requires clear communication, leadership, and accountability. Always begin with the end in mind. Once you know why you do what you do – everything else falls into place much easier.

~Happy trimming,

Melissa

MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteP.S. How do you develop teamwork at your salon?  Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.

clinicSpend the day with Melissa

Melissa Verplank will be in the Tampa, Florida area on Sunday, March 19, 2017 for an all day seminar.  Melissa will present four of her most popular lectures that are sure to help you and your business!


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


Are You a Dog Grooming Success?

September 1st, 2016 by Joelle

rrimageDog groomers love to do a good job. We like the way it feels to excel and to please other people. For some, this is how they measure success.  For others, this is a starting point.  Do you want to know the steps and work it takes to go from good to great?

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

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

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

Focus on the fundamentals.

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

c00aa89c0f35c77225dcdc099b7a0f84What are the fundamentals in dog grooming?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy trimming!

~ Melissa


Production Bathing & Drying

July 7th, 2016 by Joelle

production-blogPet bathing and drying seems to be a huge time challenge for many professionals. Many of you are all overflowing with pets to bathe during the summer season. I thought this would be a great time to review my time-tested “game.” I loved to play this game whether it was with 8 or 80 dogs a day! I’ve done it both ways and every number in-between over the years.

If you are one of those high volume shops doing 40 – 70 or more pets per day…  that’s a lot of toenail trimming no matter how you look at it!! How can you get more done in less time while not letting the quality of the work suffer? Here’s my method –  it’s a fast paced game with lots of variables to mix it up every day. After all, whoever thought pet grooming was going to be a boring job?

It’s not a mystery but it is like cooking a meal. The larger and more extravagant the meal (with multiple dishes being served), the more complicated the timing and the choices get to be. With a few dogs, it’s pretty simple – the choices are limited. Add more dogs and the variables increase.  Move to a full-blown shop pushing through 50+ dogs and you have something like a full force, successful restaurant that is managed by an experienced head chef.  OK, so how do you manage your bathing and drying roster so all the pets are done to the highest degree of quality and proficiency, just like getting multiple dishes to the table all done to perfection and hot?

The Three Basic Rules & Guidelines to Follow

1Review all the dogs on your roster for that day or session. This game works best when you have multiple pets arriving at one time so you can stagger them according to coat type, size, and degree of difficulty.

2Do your largest and furriest dog first. Something that can be bathed and then lightly high velocity dried to lift and separate the fur. By spending a few minutes with the high velocity dryer on each pet, it allows a clear view of any special needs of that animal while enhancing airflow to the coat once it is placed in an inactive drying situation. Bathe and set up the coat on all the bath and brush pets first, starting with the largest and most time-consuming dogs, working down the line of difficulty to the least difficult of the bath and brush pets. Once all the bath and brush pets are bathed, then proceed with dogs that need active drying to yield the best results

3Your goal on all trim dogs is not only to get the pet clean, but the coat needs to be tangle free and as straight as possible for the finished trim. After all the B&B pets are bathed, start washing your trim dogs. Start with the pet that has the heaviest and straightest coat – something that can sit for a few minutes while you bathe your other haircut pets without risking the coat drying before you get to an active drying method. Let the pet sit in a warm place wrapped in a towel. Proceed washing the next pet based on size, coat density and curl factor – less curl hits the tub before a curly coat – curly coats such as Bichons or Poodles go to the tub last. Once all the trim pets are bathed, start drying. The first pet up on the drying table should be the one that has the curliest, but lightest coat since that coat type will dry the quickest. If the coat dries before an active form of drying can take place while the coat is still damp, it will be impossible to remove the curl unless you re-wet the pet. Once the curliest coats have been fluffed dried so they are absolutely straight, move to the next kinkiest or wavy coat type – also weigh in the coat density factor. A lighter or shorter coat will need to go before a heavier or longer coats. A typical example would be that you have two dogs of equal size and similar haircuts like a 1 guard on the body and a fuller leg style. One dog is a Lhasa and the other is a Maltese/Shih Tzu mix. Normally the Maltese cross would have a lighter density of coat than the Lhasa, thus the Maltese mix gets dried before the Lhasa. Continue this process moving from the curliest coats down the line. The key is to get to a coat before it is dry so the heat of the dryer can straighten the fur out. Remember, the goal is always to have a straight, fluffy, mat free coat to finish. Curls and kinks in the fur make it impossible to execute a trim that is smooth and sleek. If a coat gets too dry, it must be re-wetted and the drying process started over.

????????There are many variations to how this game gets played out to be effective. It is what makes a day interesting to a professional pet stylist. The better you get at this game, the faster you will be able to get through multiple pets without sacrificing quality. Think about what we do in the terms of food. An average home cook should be able to get 2-3 dishes on the table at the same time. A first-class home cook should be able to handle a meal with 4-5 dishes and at least 6 people. Seasoned home entertainers can handle an elaborate holiday meal for 20 with ease. A professional chef will master an entire shift serving over a 100 meals and all their side dishes with it all arriving to the table hot and beautifully prepared.

How far can you push yourself – before you get lost in the order of bathing pets? Test yourself and see how you do. It’s a fun game that can be challenging yet really invigorating. The more dogs, the more fun, and reward when it goes smoothly!

What are your best methods? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa


Who Should I hire?

June 30th, 2016 by Joelle

Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot of questions when it comes to hiring groomers and stylists. Questions like, “How should I grow my business? Which is better – independent contractors or employees?”

Early in my career I faced the same question. I went the same route as many of you. I was phenomenally successful with my first mobile grooming van in the early 80s. I needed to bring someone on to help handle my client load.

1rrAt the time, it was just me. I wore all the hats. My focus was strictly on grooming and growing my business. I didn’t have time to deal with payroll, taxes, and Workman’s Comp. The easiest way for me to handle the situation was to bring on an independent contractor to run a second van. Within a very short time I needed to bring on another van with another independent contractor.

As I was growing the business, my father (who is also a successful businessman) was watching over my shoulder. He heavily questioned my thought process about using independent contractors instead of employees. Just like many of you, I had every excuse in the book as to why independents contractors were better for my business.

  • “I can’t afford employees.”
  • “I don’t have time to figure out all the taxes.”
  • “They supply all their own hand tools.”
  • “They work without supervision in the vans.”
  • “Everybody else pays their groomers as independent contractors.”

I was confident I was doing the right thing.

Was I?

I ran like this for a number of years. My business was growing and so was my team. Then I learned about one of my idols who was a very knowledgeable and talented pet stylist who bought an existing and thriving salon.

The IRS had come in for a standard audit of his business. Guess what? They determined all of his independent contractors were actually employees. They went after him for all of the back taxes for the entire team. Years of back taxes. And to make matters even worse – they went after him for all of the back taxes due from the previous owner, as well.

My idol was destroyed – not just financially.

He lost his business.

He lost his house.

He lost his marriage.

He lost everything. He virtually became homeless.

2rrThe IRS is not somebody you want to mess with. They can destroy you.

Once I learned of this story, I went back and really looked at how I was running my business.

  • The company dispatcher booked our contracted stylist’s appointments.
  • The company dictated what their route needed to be and what time they needed to arrive to the client’s home.
  • The contracted employees were required to create daily written records of the services provided along with the charges with each appointment. With existing clients, stylists were expected to follow the directions in the trim histories, plus they were required to abide by the established pricing structure.
  • Checks were made out to my company.
  • The company set the pricing structure charged for the work done by each stylist.
  • The contracted employees worked full-time for my company.
  • The contracted employees were paid weekly commissions based off of their previous week’s sales.
  • I supplied the van, the tables, dryers, shampoos, vacuums, maintenance on the vans, fuel, and auto insurance on the mobile units.
  • All vans were stored and dispatched out of my property.
  • I had the ability to fire them.

Sure, there are a few gray areas. When I reviewed the list of 20 questions the IRS (see the image below) uses to determine whether a team member should be receiving a 1099 or a W-2, I had that deep gut sense I had been working with misclassified workers. I was terrified.

I flipped my team of independent contractors to employees almost instantly and never looked back. My father was immensely relieved with my change of heart – and rightly so.

3rrYes, having employees was more costly to my business. I made the necessary adjustments. I raised our grooming prices. I hired an office assistant to deal with the weekly payroll. I boosted the level of responsibility of my accountant to deal with taxes on a quarterly basis. We made it work and we continued to thrive.

If you are in the United States, take a look at the questions below. You can click on and print the image to review it more carefully. Answer them honestly. What is your gut telling you?

This is not an area where you can afford to be wrong. Choosing the wrong classification could cost you weeks – if not months – of grief. Maybe you’ll get away with a slap on the wrist. Maybe you’ll have to make up all those back taxes and pay them to the IRS. Or maybe they will come down so strongly you could lose your business. Your home. And even your life as you know it.

Are you willing to take the risk?

Are you in this situation? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

IRS-20

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Help! I Have Too Many Clients!

June 22nd, 2016 by Joelle

Did you know about half of all small businesses fail within the first four years? It’s a scary statistic, but fortunately, you’re not one of the fallen. Your books are full. You’re grooming steadily all day long. The phones are ringing off the hook – it’s a dream come true, right?

There can sometimes be a dark side to all of this success. Do you feel like no matter how hard you work, how efficiently you groom, you just can’t get ahead? Is your first available appointment still three weeks out – or more? Is your cancellation list getting longer and longer?

I’ll bet you’re tired.   

Stressed.

Frustrated.

Wondering why you ever opened your own business.

After all, wasn’t it supposed to be fun and satisfying to finally be your own boss? Yet somehow, grooming all those cute little fluffy puppies has lost its appeal.

Sound familiar? I’ve been there more times than I care to admit!

What are you going to do?

The easy solution would be to hire another groomer. Unfortunately, finding someone talented, reliable, and a good fit for your team can be quite challenging. Most grooming schools have far more job requests than their graduates could fill. Placing an ad in any type of help wanted advertising outlet yields only crickets when it comes to finding anybody even remotely qualified to groom dogs and cats.

telephone-hammer-848x478 This is an age-old problem. I don’t know of a single successful grooming business that has not faced this dilemma at some point.

Don’t fret. You have options. Some are more long-term solutions. Others can be implemented instantly for immediate relief.

  1. Train your own groomers and stylists from scratch.
  2. Delegate basic tasks.
  3. Hire an assistant.
  4. Become exclusive by raising your prices, which will instantly lighten your client load.

Training your own groomers and stylists from the ground up is a great long-term solution – and sometimes the only option. It’s not a quick fix, but it is something you will want to keep in the back of your mind for the future. If you opt to go this route, keep in mind it will typically take six months to a year to train to someone who can independently groom dogs.

If you are a salon owner, my guess is you wear many hats when it comes to running your business. What if you could have someone else do some of the NON-grooming related tasks? Hire someone full or part-time to do the tasks you really don’t need to be doing. Things like:

  • cleaning
  • laundry services
  • running errands
  • bookkeeping
  • payroll
  • data entry

Delegate anything you can to assist with the smooth running of your business – or your home – which is not directly related to grooming.

Training a grooming assistant is a great option. Having someone to help with the more elementary tasks of grooming pets isn’t as time-consuming or difficult as training a full-fledged groomer. Yet, a well-trained assistant can almost double your productivity. A large bulk of the time grooming dogs is eaten up in the wet room.

Yes, training an assistant takes time but you will make that time up quickly! It will go even faster if you utilize the Core Skills videos in the Learn2GroomDogs.com online library. Combine that with select sections from the first 80 pages of Notes From the Grooming Table – Second Edition, and you have a winning recipe for success. Let’s face it, half of the time spent grooming dogs is spent in the bathing, drying, and fluffing areas.

There are other benefits to having an assistant work with you. They can jump in to help with other simple tasks when you really need another set of hands. Wouldn’t it be great to have someone who could:

  • help handle a challenging pet
  • answer the phone
  • run dogs and do potty breaks
  • help with customers
  • clean and sanitize
  • do laundry

…the list could go on and on.

Many successful stylists just don’t want to deal with a staff. They want to keep it simple. Uncomplicated. Stress-free. Yet if you have way too many clients, the demands on your time and your sanity will be quickly tested.

If the other three options are not good fits for you, maybe raising your prices and becoming exclusive is the best option. If you stop and do the math, it can be pretty enlightening. Raising your prices by $5 to $10 per dog will weed out your client load almost instantly, freeing up your time – and giving you time to breathe.

When you feel you could work twenty-four hours per day, seven days a week, and still not have sufficient time to get everything done – it’s time for a change. Situations like this are what contribute to safety issues, affect your personal life – maybe even your health.

Success is a great thing as long as you manage the growing pains of your business. If you don’t, the business is going to be running you instead of you running your company.

If you are one of the success stories with an abundance of pooches (or felines) coming through your doors, congratulations! Remember – managing growth is just as important as creating an amazing service for your customers. If you are feeling frustrated and stressed out, make the change you feel best fits your situation. Get off that work overload treadmill. Once you do, you might even enjoy your business again!

Has this ever happened to you? What did you do? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

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Get ’em Talking

May 19th, 2016 by Joelle

The lifeblood of any successful business is positive word of mouth marketing – but how do you get people to talk about you? The answer is simple.

IMAGErrDynamite customer service.

When it comes to creating amazing customer service, there are a few things you need to focus on.

  1. delight your customers
  2. earn their trust and respect
  3. be interesting
  4. make it easy for them to talk about you

Going the extra mile pays huge dividends. Yet sometimes you don’t have to even go that extra mile. Sometimes it’s the simple things like:

  • helping people and their pets
  • solving problems
  • treating both the client and the pets with dignity and respect
  • creating a warm, clean, and safe environment

If you genuinely care about your business and your career – none of the items listed above are difficult.

One my companies, Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa, is phenomenal at impressing people which in turn gets them talking. We do virtually zero paid advertising. Instead, we focus on those four key elements listed above; delighting our customers, being interesting, earning our clients’ trust, and making it easy for them to talk about us.

Here are a few examples.

We offer full facility tours ANYTIME we are open to the public. We have extended hours from 6 AM until 9 PM Monday through Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, the resort is open from 7 AM to 8 PM.

When folks tour the facility, it is an automatic wow factor. Even though we have 180 rooms for the dogs, it is always spotless. It’s wide open and inviting. The noise levels are not out-of-control for a facility the size. One area of any pet care facility most people do not give a lot of thought to but it makes a HUGE impression. The smell. Rarely is a tour given where the participants don’t comment on this fact. We normally get that wide open expression people get when they are surprised. They look at us and say, “I would never guess there are over 200 dogs here! There is NO doggy odor!!” We pride ourselves on the fact that it always smells fresh and clean.

Our tours get people talking. Stop and think about it – what do you think someone is going to do as soon as they leave the tour? They have just experienced an amazing place that can help them solve many problems when it comes to their beloved family pets. Most of our prospective clients race home to tell their friends and family. Almost all of them become customers.

Here is another way to foster word of mouth marketing. Photos and events. Over the years, the Whiskers team has hosted many special events for both our overnight guests and doggie daycare clients. The entire goal for these events it to get people talking in the community. The parties are promoted through our monthly client newsletter and Facebook page. It works.

In fact, parties and photos worked so well, we’ve scaled back the amount of parties we offer. Why? Because we operate at over 100% occupancy rate during most of the summer season, almost all weekends through the year and major holidays we’re booked out weeks – if not months – in advance.

Even though these examples are talking about a pet resort – the grooming spa feeds off the same frenzy the word of mouth marketing creates. At the resort, the grooming department is open 7 days a week and with two shifts running on most days.

So how do you apply this type of marketing to your business?

First, make sure you have remarkable grooming and customer service skills. If there any weak links – fix them. You need to be able to delight your customers with your grooming skills while winning their respect and trust. Once you have done that, then you can start getting creative with the fun stuff. How to get clients and prospective clients talking about you. What will make you interesting? What will make you stand out from your competitors? If you are successful – people will start talking about you.

Remember, you need to make it easy for your customers. If they adore what you were doing – they will automatically love talking about you with their family, friends, coworkers, or anyplace people gather.

So here are a few ideas that you can use to help spread the word while making it easy for others to find you. On every piece of promotional material that goes out, whether it be print or in digital format, your name, address, and contact information easy to find and readily accessible.

  • Facebook Page – Make it appeal to your customers. Have fun with it. Post appealing photos you take while working. Add items that would be of general interest to the bulk of your customers. Pet general health. Fun things to do with your dog. Behavior and training articles. Recipes that cater to dogs or cats. Find things that will make people smile and laugh that are pet related. Always keep it clean. Always keep it professional.
  • Email Addresses – In this digital age, capturing an email address is more important than a street address. Having a robust email contact list will be your most economical source to stay in touch with your customers and potential customers. Always – always look for ways to collect email addresses.
  • Create a Monthly or Quarterly Client Newsletter – Electronic newsletters do not have to be long. Two or three smaller articles or points of interest are generally enough in our fast-paced information loaded society. Combine the articles with a few promotions you have scheduled for the month or for the quarter. And make sure it easy for your customers to share the newsletter through other social media outlets.
  • Special Events – Even if you do not have room to host a full-fledged party, don’t let that stop you from doing something special for your customers are participating at events. Most small towns have a parade – maybe they are taking part. What about charity dog walking events? Matching themed T-shirts and bandannas combined with freshly groomed dogs from your salon can make a big impact in the community. Maybe you give them a free spa upgrade with a special gift to take home. On Valentine’s Day, make sure every dog leaves with a special treat – maybe a rose with a card attached to it “signed” by the dog. Maybe you do a free pet facial or pet-i-cure. Whatever the event – make sure you have the promotional materials at your fingertips. That will make it easy for them to pass along your contact information when they talk about whatever interesting event you just hosted. Pay attention to details.
  • Encourage people to talk about you – Post signs around your salon. On your front door. Add it to your receipts. Make sure it is on all your informational handouts and service menus. Encouraged people to speak in a positive light about your services. Make it a personal goal to make your customer smile – or better yet – aim for a reaction that makes them gleam as they say thank you. Do something memorable!
  • Business Website – Make sure that it is clean and easy to navigate. It doesn’t have to be long or lengthy. With smaller businesses, simplicity can go a long way. Pictures are worth 1000 words – so make sure you use high quality images to support your text. One of the most popular pages on any website is the gallery. This is a wonderful place to showcase your facility and or your work. You don’t need 100 photos – that would be overwhelming and too difficult for most devices to download. 10 to 15 of your best images will do. Also, don’t forget to make sure your website transfers cleanly between computer and handheld devices.

These are just a few ideas to help you get folks talking about you. There are thousands of ways to get the ball rolling – it just takes a little forethought and creativity on your part.

Happy customers are always your greatest advertisers. If you expect them to share their experiences with you, you’re going to have to help it along. To spur it along, make sure you give people a simple message to share and then ways to help them pass it along to others.

Remember, you need to give prospective customers and clients a positive reason to talk about you. People do not talk about things that bore them. They do not talk about just acceptable service. The only talk about things that excite them. Delight them. Wow them. If you focus on making your customers happy, earning their trust and respect – they’re going to start talking about you.

Word-of-mouth marketing is the most effective form of marketing any service company can do. It will far outperform any coupon or paid advertisement you can run anywhere. When people share their experiences about your company to their friends, family, coworkers and associates, It’s the highest compliment they can get. They are putting their trust in to you. They are encouraging people they know to use your services. That’s success and that’s the reason you need to get them talking about you!
Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S.

How do YOU deliver amazing customer service? Go online and tell us about it on the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page.


 
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