Hiring for the Spring Rush

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

Let me ask you this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

featured-classifiedWhere to Find Them

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

Rural Background

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

Students and Recent Graduates

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

Previous Job Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

What are the Benefits of Certification Testing?

booksProfessional certification can be found in almost every industry in the United States. Professions such as auto repair, nursing, and technology – to name a few – all have voluntary or mandatory certification organizations.

The pet grooming certification testing is the process of publicly proving you know what you’re doing.

Period.

The certification process includes education and experience as well as written and practical testing. Successful completion of each phase demonstrates a level of mastery in the grooming profession.

Is the process of passing the certification testing easy? No. It’s challenging and time-consuming. It can be stressful and frustrating.

But why shouldn’t this be the case? If you want to demonstrate mastery of your craft, shouldn’t the process be rigorous? Shouldn’t it mean something? Shouldn’t it be a true reflection of the skill and artistry of your craft?

If certification were easy, if the standards were simpler, it would devalue the accomplishment of being a Certified Master. As you pass each section it’s validation that you are an expert at your craft. It’s inspiring. It’s exciting. It’s rewarding.

So why should you do it – other than to get the certificate to hang on the wall?

I can tell you why I did it. You might be able to identify with some of my struggles and why I chose this path so early in my career.

I started grooming in the late 70’s. It was not necessarily my career choice. However, I was working at a kennel and when the groomer was fired I went from being kennel help to groomer, overnight. I had no formal training. All I had was a book and a patient boss. She helped me the best she could. On my first day I had six dogs to get through – not an easy way to get started! My early work was LESS than dazzling!

There were no certification organizations when I first started grooming. However, the kennel I worked at was progressive. We got the industry newsletters and magazines that were available at the time. I started seeing articles about this new group that would become the first voluntary pet grooming certification testing organization.

A few years went by and my skills improved – slightly. I started going to conformation dog shows. I learned about grooming competitions. The voluntary certification testing organization was picking up speed, too.

About that same time, I got married and moved. I started my first grooming business, Four Paws Mobile Grooming. Keep in mind that this is back in the early 80’s. No one had heard of mobile grooming back then. My company took off like wildfire. I was only 22 years old. In less than a year, I added a second truck and hired my first employee. Less than a year after that I added two vans at once and hired more groomers.  Within five years, I had six vans on the road and a team of groomers working for me.

Being young and having to hire experienced groomers was very challenging. I quickly realized I needed to have an edge. I needed to have the knowledge and the skills to gain the respect I needed to be their leader. I needed some way to learn advanced quality pet grooming techniques. I needed verification I knew what I was doing. I needed confidence. I wasn’t going to succeed in any of that if I didn’t step out of my comfort zone and push my educational resources.

Did I want to take the time it was going to take to learn everything I needed to pass these tests? Heck no.2017-04-19_1445

I wasn’t the best student in school. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to this process – especially taking those tests! But I was determined to gain the respect of my staff. I knew putting in the time and effort to earn my Certified Master Groomer status was what I needed to do.

Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoyed the process once I got started. I loved the learning aspect. I marked up my books. Pages were highlighted. Notes were written in the margins. I had sticky notes everywhere helping me identify key areas. I was passionate about being the best I could be. I could instantly transfer and apply what I was learning to my daily grooming appointments.

In the end, going through the certification process served myself and my team well. Certification quickly helped me turn my new business into a thriving company. I could network with other pet professionals who mirrored my beliefs and ethics. Become a Certified Master Groomer was the foundation work I needed to start building a career that always pushed me to new heights.

Here are seven reasons I would encourage you to become a Certified Master Groomer.

  • Certification is a valuable tool for learning. Today there are multiple certification organizations for both dog and cat grooming. Each organization focuses on a slightly different level of knowledge and skill sets. All of them will raise your knowledge and skill set to new levels.
  • Becoming certified raises the standards of our profession. Becoming a professional pet groomer is easy. There is no licensing and no mandatory accreditation. However, that does not mean the industry does not maintain quality standards. The certification organizations are raising our professional standards in the areas of knowledge, techniques, skills, and abilities.
  • Networking with like-minded professionals. You will meet pet professionals who value education, skill building, and personal growth. I found mentors and business acquaintances I could lean on and bounce ideas around. These were people who would support me and push me to become better. I’m honored to say that some of those folks became friends – and we’re still friends over 30 years later! I bet you’ll make lifelong friends, too, if you take the journey.
  • Employment opportunities. Voluntary certification will improve your chances of moving ahead in your job. Becoming a Certified Master Groomer instantly validates your skill set. Some employers prefer to hire people who are or are in the process of going through the certification process. Others will only hire job candidates who are already certified. Being certified may also be used to determine promotions within a team of stylists.
  • Higher price tags for your services. Being certified verifies you possess a higher skill set than most pet grooming professionals. Having a higher skill set translates into being able to charge more for your grooming services.
  • Gain respect. Becoming certified instantly gains you respect from your clients, your peers, your staff – and ultimately yourself. Many clients are becoming savvier as to what makes a quality pet stylist. They are seeking them out. Many even drive great distances to get to a certified pet stylist. Being well-educated leaves you with a feeling of fulfillment and accomplishment.
  • Confidence builder. One of the greatest benefits of certification testing is the self-confidence it gives you. I love this quote by Arthur Ashe. He said, “One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” Going through the certification process is the preparation you need to build a thriving career as a professional pet groomer and stylist.

There are currently four well-established organizations offering voluntary certification testing for professional pet groomers. There are new organizations popping up, as well. Do your research on new organization as they become available for testing. Weigh out for yourself whether you should invest your time and energy into their testing programs.

The established organizations who garner respect in the industry are::

  1. National Dog Groomers Association of America (NDGAA)
  2. International Professional Groomers Inc. (IPG)
  3. International Society of Canine Cosmetologists (ISCC)
  4. National Cat Groomers Institute of America, Inc. (NCGIA)

When it comes to books and learning, I can never get enough. Once you start down the path of certification testing, you may find that it opens doors to continued education. I know it did for me. I’ve always said one of the most exciting aspects of our industry is that you can never know it all. There is always something new to learn and to improve.

Successfully completing the certification process is just one of the stepping-stones to improving your knowledge base, your skill set, and your career. It’s not about having the certificate hanging on the wall (although that’s nice), it’s more about what it can do for your emotional strength and well-being. The benefits can be immense, outweighing any obstacle getting in your way.

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteP.S. What do you think? Do you think groomers should be certified?  Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us what you think.

I Want a “Puppy Cut”

Don’t you love it when an owner walks into a salon and ask for this trim by name? They actually think this is a universal standard trim that all groomers and pet stylists should know how to do. When we start asking them questions, they get all huffy, thinking we don’t know how to do our jobs. Frustrating!! You and I know there isn’t a consistent right way to do a “puppy cut.” There are many – many variations!

The puppy cut is one of the most popular haircuts. It works well on a wide variety of pets. From Shih Tzus to Doodles. From Pomeranians to Bichons. Almost any breed that grows longer coat can be done in this easy-to-care for style.

Yet, the puppy cut is also the most misunderstood haircut in grooming salons around the country. Why? There are no clear directions of what this trim actually is or how it should be done. It’s left up to individual personal interpretation by owners, groomers, or talented pet stylists.

The puppy cut started out as a trim style for Poodles. The puppy cut is a specific trim used on young Poodles in the dog show world. Once the puppy turns a year-old, they are put into the elaborate adult haircut for the conformation ring.

Today, the term “puppy cut” is used very loosely. It can apply to a wide variety of different breeds. It’s highly adaptable to any size of dog. Coats can be curly, wavy, or straight. Almost any purebred or mixed breed that grows hair looks appealing in a “puppy cut.”

quote 2 Many owners love this style of trim. It can be very cute. It’s easy to care for. It’s highly versatile. That’s a win-win-win for any busy family! The dog does not drag in dirt and debris from outdoors. Their ears do not drag in the food or water dish. The need for brushing between grooming appointments is minimized. And on smaller pets, bathing between grooming appointments is a breeze. When done well, it can be extremely attractive, to boot.

So what is it?

Essentially, the puppy cut is one length all over. The most common length is between 1-2 inches over the body, legs, tail, head, and ears. Typically, it’s done with a clipper fitted with a long guard comb over the blade. There should not be any clipper marks, uneven coat, or sharp edges left in the fur. Next to a powerful clipper, high quality blenders are your best friends when doing this trim. Everything is soft and plush, like a fluffy puppy.

The term “puppy cut” can be tricky. In some circles the puppy cut can also be known as the “teddy bear trim”, “summer cut”, or “kennel cut.” I’ve even seen some salons turn their version of the trim into their “signature haircut.” So the puppy cut becomes “The Posh Pet Special” (brilliant marketing by the way!) Generally, the only things that change between theses trims are the names and the length of coat.

It’s important to keep this in mind, too: one person’s interpretation of a puppy cut might be that of a smooth-coated puppy. Think Boxer, Pug, or Beagle. Another person’s interpretation would be that of a fluffier breed like a Shih Tzu, Bichon, or Poodle. There’s also a big difference between a four-week old puppy and a ten-week old puppy in terms of coat growth.

With all these interpretations, there is a wide variance of what each individual dog will look like and what each owner expects their dog to look like. If an owner is requesting this trim for the first time, be prepared to discuss the trim in detail with the owner. DO NOT ASSUME YOU ARE BOTH ON THE SAME PAGE! Communication is the key to a happy customer.

Here is a great tip to remember when talking with clients: whoever is asking the questions controls the conversation. As groomers and pet stylists, we are problem solvers. Uncover the problems in five simple steps.

  1. Observe the pet as the client walks through the door. Let common sense guide your line of questions.
  2. Find the problem. Ask basic questions like, “Were you thinking of a short and smooth style or something a bit fluffier?” Letting the client talk will help uncover problem areas.
  3. Gather clues from what the client tells you and what you observe.
  4. Offer limited choices as you help the client solve the problem.
  5. Guide the questions in five areas of the pet: overall body – head – ears – legs/feet – tail.

Here is a list of talking points when a new client request a “puppy cut.”

  • In general, what is the look they are hoping for? Something smooth and sleek so it’s easy to care for? Or something that makes the dog look slightly fluffy, plush, and super cute?
  • What is the lifestyle of the dog? Active? Sedentary? City dweller? Enjoys outdoor activities?
  • What is the texture and coat density of the dog? Fine, thin coats will looks shorter than dense coated dogs even with the same length clipper blade.
  • How much length do they want left on the body? What about on the legs? Feet?
  • What type of head style would they prefer?
  • Depending on the pet’s ear set, ear styles can change dramatically (dropped ear or pricked and pointed). How do they want them styled? Long? Short? In-between?
  • Do they want a long coat left on the tail or trimmed down to match the body? Or something in-between?

It’s important to have a thorough conversation with the owner when considering this haircut. There are so many variances with a puppy cut. Simply having the client state they want one is not specific enough.

Advise the client about trim options that would work best for their dog. Based on the condition of the coat and your pet’s body structure, you will be able to offer some valuable suggestions. A skilled pet professional will know how to make minor changes to the trim enhancing the pet’s appeal. Maybe the pet’s coat is too tangled to do the longer trim today. You’ll be able to suggest alternatives on how to modify a trim that works best as you discuss options for future trims.

Educating clients on proper pet hygiene is a valuable service most salon offer for free to their clients. In order to keep the dog looking its best, you can advise the client on how to best maintain this haircut between grooming appointments. At home brushing and bathing can make a big difference in how they look and smell, too. You can also make suggestions on how often the trim should be done based on the pet’s life style and coat texture. Maybe you suggest they get a full haircut every 4-6 weeks. Or maybe a maintenance program would be better suited for the client when you see them for weekly or bi weekly appointments.

Always remember, your clients are the lifeblood of your business. Taking a little extra time up front for a warm and welcoming pet consultation will go a long way toward building a solid relationship with them.

There is a good reason why the “puppy cut” is one of the most popular trims in grooming salons around the country. There are many – many variations!

What is YOUR first thought when you hear this term? How do you address this issue?  Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it!
Happy trimming,

~Melissa

P.S. You can make this and ALL grooming conversations easier and more successful.

This is a great tool tool for getting the conversation started in a way that is easy for you to explain and for the client to understand. The photos and drawings make it even simpler! Try it the next time you talk to your guests. Even better? Use this as a teaching/training tool for your staff so you are all consistent in the ways you speak to your clients. Once everyone on your team knows how to discuss the essential parts of the pet, they’ll sound more knowledgeable, your clients will feel more comfortable, and you’ll waste less time (and possibly profits) correcting “guess work!”

How to Get the Most from a Hands-On Grooming Clinic

Blog PicEDITEDAttending a hands-on clinic is still one of the best ways to learn. These events often feature stylists that have proven their skill level around the globe. Despite their busy workshop travel schedules, celebrity pet stylists can still be found at their grooming tables every day, just like you, grooming regular clients.

Have you ever had the opportunity to train with a celebrity pet stylist? It’s a great way to improve your skills and get super energized!

Many top professional pet stylists love to help the next generation of groomers. Some of these teaching opportunities may be demonstrations or lectures. Others might be workshops where you supply the dog or cat (as well as the grooming tools) and have the opportunity to be personally coached as you work.

So, how do you get the most out of one of these coaching sessions?

1. Make sure your core/foundation skills are strong.

 Core or foundation skills include:

Proper coat preparation
  •  bathing
  • drying
  • nails trimmed
  • ears cleaned
  • 100% tangle free coat
knowledge of basic anatomy
basic (and correct) usage of tools: brushes, combs, clippers, scissors, carding tools, and stripping knives

2. Make sure to bring a quality practice pet. 

If you do not come to the session with an adequate pet to work on, you only hurt yourself.

  • select a dog or cat with enough coat to demonstrate your skills
  • the pet must have an appropriate temperament
  • the pet should be a good representative of the breed

There are a wide variety of very accomplished pet stylists. Many specialize in a certain breed, grooming technique, or topic.  The better prepared you are to participate in the hands-on workshop, the more you’re going to get out of it. Step into the session with a very open mind.

If you are young and fresh to the industry, the information shared in these clinics can be almost overwhelming. Be the driest sponge that you can be – soak up every bit of knowledge that you can.

As your knowledge and skills develop, the clinics won’t be intimidating. They will become a great tweaking session for your skills. They will keep you abreast of advanced grooming skills and trends. Plus, these types of functions are a great way to invigorate your career.

These principles remain valid for many forms of advanced learning in the pet grooming industry. If you aren’t able to attend a hands-on training session, there are other ways to learn from the experts. Be part of the audience at a trade show or pet grooming competition. Watch a grooming video lesson featuring one of these top stylists. The better you can execute the core skills with your everyday grooming, the easier it will be to successfully transfer their lessons to your own grooming table.

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

Happy Trimming!

~ Melissa

P.S. Did I miss any tricks? Tell me what works for you.  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!

Click here for more information and to reserve your seat.