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.

 


What’s the Hardest Part of Running a Business?

August 3rd, 2017 by Joelle

06-27

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

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

And the real biggie – training them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

featured-classified-300x232So let’s get back to that hiring challenge. If you’re faced with having to hire a groomer, know what to look for. One thing I recommend is Attitude. Attitude. Attitude. I always look for somebody who’s got a positive, upbeat attitude. Someone who is receptive to new information. They need to be moldable. Adaptable. And they cannot be afraid of hard work. I hire on potential, not necessarily experience.

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

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

Will you help us blaze the trail?

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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

 


Hiring for the Spring Rush

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!


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!

3 Books to Help Build an Amazing Grooming Career

June 9th, 2016 by Joelle

The choice to groom my first dog wasn’t mine. I had been working as kennel help and would occasionally help the groomer when my tasks were done. Nothing major, just bathing a few dogs, trimming some toenails, maybe brushing out some mats. I might even dry a few dogs by hand.

One day all that changed.

I still remember that call from my boss. She phoned me at home one night to tell me the full-time groomer we’d had was no longer with the salon. In an instant, my job changed from kennel help to groomer.

My first day on the job, I had six dogs on my roster – and no clue how to groom them. At the time there was nothing like Notes From the Grooming Table or even The Theory of 5 to guide me down this new path. Being young and fearless has its advantages – and yes, I got through my first day at my new job.

I won’t say that during those first few months I did beautiful work. Far from it. But there was something about it I liked. I was working with animals. Being creative. Having a skill that needed to be mastered. I found it all rewarding and challenging at the same time. The more I learned about dogs – and grooming them – the more I wanted to understand how to do it well.

Wanting to learn more brought me to voluntary certification testing. I studied breed standards and terminology. I learned about structure and movement. I worked hard to achieve competition level pet styling. As I became more knowledgeable, my skill level at the grooming table improved immensely.

In some ways, educating myself was like learning a foreign language. I bought my first AKC Complete Dog Book in 1979. It was the yellow one. Since then I have owned every version put out by the AKC including their latest edition (which is amazing by the way!).

I still remember that first yellow book. I soaked up the words but was clueless as to how to apply what I was reading. The terms and concepts were abstract in so many ways. I kept my trusty highlighter in my hand – but I really didn’t even know what I was highlighting. I tried to imagine what the words meant, but I couldn’t form a picture in my mind. I just didn’t know.

To complicate things even further, I started attending clinics. Advanced clinics. The demonstrators were talking about structure…movement… angles. I was totally lost. All this information was over my head. But I never gave up. As baffled as I was, I was still fascinated. I wanted to figure it out.

Every time I ran across a mysterious word in the AKC Complete Dog Book, I looked it up in the glossary. (Keep in mind this is long before the age of the internet and Google searches!) The more I learned – the more I wanted to learn. I started hunting for books that would help me understand how a dog was put together and why.

The next book I discovered was Canine Terminology, by Harold R. Spira. It was a gold mine! It was a visual dictionary of terms. All those things I struggled to imagine on my own, I could now see. How did those terms play out? What was a deep set eye? What was considered high ears? What were parallel planes? What was the difference between a cat foot and a hare foot? Any term that I found in the breed standards, I could almost always find a thorough explanation for in Canine Terminology.

I was feeling pretty confident as my knowledge grew. I could now envision what a dog that was standing still should look like based on the written standard. Yet, I still didn’t understand the “whys” of what I was doing. And I was certainly still clueless when it came to movement. All that talk about angles in the front and rear assemblies – what? How does that work? But more importantly why does it work – and when a dog is not built correctly, how does it affect the dog?

That’s when I discovered K9 Structure & Terminology, by Edward M. Gilbert, Jr. and Thelma R. Brown. It was like a light bulb going off in my head. I still didn’t totally understand the angles but I could visually see how the angles would work together when it came to effective movement. What I really loved about this book was the authors’ use of wild animals as examples. They talked about how the animals were structurally designed to survive – and thrive – in their environments.

The domesticated dog is a man-made creature. Breeds were originally bred and developed to assist man to do thousands of jobs. Almost all purebred dogs have some working trait in their backgrounds. How they are structurally put together allowed them to work efficiently – or not – for the job they were designed to do. Man stole those ideas by studying wild animals. With controlled breeding, man was able to create dogs designed to excel in areas wherever they needed help. The domesticated dog was there, working right beside man, to survive and thrive.

Today, many of those working roles are no longer required due to advancement in the industrial age and technology. Many breeds have been lost – while other ancient breeds still exist in small pockets around the globe. By the same token, new breeds are being developed in the domestic dog to meet the changing needs of mankind.

In the 12 years since I wrote Notes From the Grooming Table, there have been over 50 new breeds introduced to the American Kennel Club (that’s why I wrote the new Second Edition). When we travel outside the US, there are many breeds that we have never heard of – or seen – yet they are ancient breeds to their countries. Most of these breeds have specific roles and duties. The structure of the dog determines whether they are efficient in their roles – or not.

As professional all-breed pet groomers and stylists, it is critical that we understand the finer attributes of what makes up a purebred dog. The better we understand what the breed was developed for, how it was used, and what the ideal specimen should look like, the better we become with our craft. Plus, this knowledge allows us to interact and better understand our pet clients every day.

Regardless of how you get your training – through a formal training program, an apprenticeship program, or even if you are self-taught – never stop learning.

Knowledge builds confidence. The more confident you have, the more proficient you will be with every dog that crosses your table. Understanding allows you to take advantage of opportunities when they land at your feet. Education, knowledge, and the desire to grow are the tools you need to reach your maximum potential.

What books or learning tools have helped you succeed? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us what works best for you!

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa


Am I a Good Boss?

November 19th, 2015 by Joelle

Welcome to my blog!  For the next few weeks, my marketing expert, Joelle Asmondy, will be filling in for me while I work on a large project.  Joelle is a whiz with marketing.  I can’t wait to see which helpful tidbits she shares with you!  Enjoy!

Let’s take a little poll:

  • How many of you own or run a salon?
  • Which of you have a degree in business or have taken any business classes?
  • Has anyone taken any management classes?

That sounds about right.

One of the best things about going to trade shows is meeting people. I get to talk to people from all over the country and I love it when they tell me their stories. We talk about dogs (of course), dog books (um, yeah!), and working with dogs (why not?). It’s a great way for me to stay in touch with our clients’ needs and find out what people are really thinking about.

Let me share a conversation that I have all the time…

“I became a groomer because I love dogs. At first, I just had a few clients. It started with friends and family, then their friends heard about me, and I got even busier. I got to the point where I had to hire someone just to keep up! Now I groom, book appointments, answer phones, run my own business, AND I have (one, two, three…) groomer(s) working for me!”

Sound familiar?

I love that so many dog grooming businesses have grown in such an organic way. It starts with a passion, grows because we’re needed, and thrives because we’re good at what we do. Our clients keep coming back because they know we love their pets and care about their health and safety.

The flip side to this is that very few people who own or manage these businesses have any formal training in supervising employees. We suddenly find ourselves in the role of “boss” simply because we needed help. For many, it’s a natural fit and the transition is painless. For others, the change is more challenging.

The question of the day is, “Are You a Good Boss?” The answer may surprise you.

I reached out to folks from the industry and asked them about the best qualities of their managers. Many of the answers were similar. Let’s look at the answers together and see if we can understand what it really means to be a good boss.

“I’ve grown a lot by working here.”

Do you take the time to offer praise as well as constructive criticism? In busy salons, it can become easy to fall into the habit of communicating like our furry customers – we bark at each other instead of talking. Don’t let a hectic schedule become an excuse for bad manners or meanness. Remember, you’re not just running a business, you’re building a culture. Do you want yours to be team-oriented or hostile and withdrawn? Things don’t get done any faster or better with rudeness than with courtesy.

“She’s willing to try new ideas.”

If you want employees who step up and really help out, you have to be open to trying new things. “That’s the way we’ve always done it,” will quickly kill initiative. Employees who feel like they have input into bettering the process tend to stick around longer and contribute more to the overall business. After all, isn’t that what you need?

“He’s organized.”

If you are constantly running late, running out of stock, and running out of patience, you could be running yourself right out of business. Let your team help you get things in order. Delegate duties that are well-suited to them. It empowers them and also takes a few things off your plate.

“She encourages me.”

I once worked for an amazing supervisor who motivated me just by being encouraging. I tried a new sales approach once, and it went so well that she had me present it to others in our district. Knowing that she believed in me did more than compliment me, it made me want to work even harder!

“He tells me how I can improve in a positive way.”

Two words: constructive criticism. It’s easy to tell someone when they do something wrong. If you want change that sticks, it takes a little more work.

  • Use the sandwich technique: tell them what you liked, tell them what needs to change, then offer positive feedback.
  • Be specific: saying something is done wrong is not helpful. WHAT was wrong about it? HOW should it be done next time? WHY is it important that it be done right?
  • Don’t attack the person, attack the problem: telling someone they’re terrible at trimming nails hasn’t solved anything. Look at the problem – in this case, quicking too many nails – and look at technique. If a person isn’t trained properly, they can’t be blamed for doing something wrong.
  • Don’t assume they know what you mean: it may sound simple to you, but it may not seem that obvious to them. It’s impossible to over-communicate.

“We never stop trying to get better.”

Complacency is the enemy of good business. Successful businesses are always trying to become better, more efficient, and less wasteful.

“She says, “thank you.”

Those are magic words, aren’t they? Thank you for staying late. Thank you for helping me carry in the supplies. Thank you for helping that elderly client to her car. Recognizing effort boosts morale and encourages them to keep giving their best.

“He tells me what is needed and doesn’t expect me to read his mind.”

“I shouldn’t have to tell them…”

“It’s just plain old common sense!”

Work on removing these phrases from your vocabulary. Just because you’ve done something a thousand times doesn’t mean other people understand it as thoroughly as you do. Take a minute, take a breath, and give them the benefit of the doubt.

“She recognizes effort even if we fall short of a goal.”

All success is success. It’s ok to be excited about progress even if you didn’t get quite all the way there. Learn from the experience and try again. Sometimes shared enthusiasm or experience is what’s needed to really make things happen.

Whether you became a manager by choice or by coincidence, it’s important to know how to be a good boss. Building a team and a business takes work – and you don’t have to do it alone. By developing a positive culture, you’re helping to make a better work environment that will attract better employees, will help keep your best staff, and will make your days a lot better.

What topics would you like us to cover?  Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us.

Click here for a complete video list to make searching Learn2GroomDogs.com even easier! 

Make it a great day!

~Joelle Asmondy


How to Find Job Candidates with Potential – Hiring is Necessary If You Want to Grow Your Business

September 3rd, 2015 by Joelle

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 that 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.

Back when I had my first mobile grooming business, I would park a van for months. I refused to put a poor job candidate out on the road to represent my business. Even if I did find a good candidate, it would still take me over two weeks to personally fine-tune a talented pet stylist.

Those first two weeks were spent directly with me, in my van, working under my direct supervision. Once I felt their skills were strong enough, they were still on a very short tether. I was more interested in quality than quantity. I would check up on them multiple times throughout the day once they were grooming dogs, solo. It was a daunting task.

Through the years, finding great job candidates has remained one of our biggest challenges for all my companies. One of the reasons I opened The Paragon School of Pet Grooming in the early 90’s was to have a steady stream of job candidates. With Whiskers Resort & Pet Spa, we have almost 50 people on the payroll. We are constantly on the lookout for exceptional hires.

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 that 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 find job candidates with potential. Here are a few things that I always think about when looking at prospective job candidates.

Where 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.
  • The 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.

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 have to 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 that we needed 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.

To learn more about what to look for in a new hire and how to keep them, check out my video on Learn2GroomDogs.com, CLICK HERE!

What do you think? Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it.

Happy trimming,
~Melissa

 
© 2017 - Learn2GroomDogs.com
Google Analytics Alternative

Clicky