Educational Events: Should You Send Your Team?

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

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

I am wondering:

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

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

-Debbie L., North Carolina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continuing Education Benefits

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

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

professional-development-2Formal Education Assistance

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

In-House Educational Training

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

Seminars, Clinics, Trade Shows, and Grooming Competitions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cost

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

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

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

Staff members must:

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

Alternative Educational Opportunities

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

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

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

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

Certified Master Groomer Status

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

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

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

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

Happy trimming!
~Melissa
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Tips for Using Learn2GroomDogs.com to Get the Most of Your Subscription!

Are you trying to make the most of your Learn2GroomDogs.com subscription?  While we designed Learn2GroomDogs.com to be as “user-friendly” as possible, we know that sometimes it helps to have a guided tour to make things easier.  Here are some of our favorite tips and tricks to help make your experience with us even better!

Finding Your Favorite Videos

Sometimes you just know that the video you watched will come in handy again someday.  Add it to your list of favorite videos you will watch time and time again.  We even keep it for you if you leave.  When you renew your membership, that list will be there waiting for you.

Coupon Codes


We do promotions several times a year.  If you do not have an active membership, you can use the provided coupon code to get the promoted discount.  Do not cancel an existing membership to try to apply a code.  This will result in double billing – who wants that?

Passwords


It happens to all of us – mind-blanking on a password.  If it happens, don’t panic.  Simply follow the steps above to recover your password.  Security features built into our website prevent customer service from being able to see your password.  Your best course of action is to recover – or if needed – create a new password.

Account Details


You have complete access to all of your information.  It’s just a few clicks away!  If you need information for your records, you don’t need to wait for us – your information is right at your fingertips.

While We’re Talking About Account Information…

Sharing your membership with someone may seem like a nice gesture, but it can also be a disaster!  ANYONE who has your information can see your private account data.  That means your address, email, and credit card information can be seen by anyone you give access to.  It doesn’t stop there – if that person also shares your information with anyone else… you get the picture.  Salon owners who share their account with their employees are sharing more than they think.  Be safe – protect yourself – keep this information to yourself.

Here are some other ways you can use the site to get the most out of your membership.

team rusty ring meet-anywhere flexi-arm-trick

Making the Most of a Seminar

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

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

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

2.  Make efficient use of the time available.

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

3.  Don’t be nervous – plan ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

Happy trimming!

~ Melissa

2016-09-21_1422

Do I Really Need to Learn Anything Else?

(Welcome to my blog!  This week, my marketing expert, Joelle Asmondy, will be filling in for me.  Joelle is a whiz with marketing and is a firm believer in education.  Enjoy!)

handI was at one of our industry’s amazing trade shows recently and had a brief but memorable exchange with a lady that walked past our booth. I wished her a good morning and without turning her head, she glanced at the table in front of me and the many books we had on display. Never breaking stride, she dismissed me with a quick,
“I’ve been in this business for 28 years – I’m good.”

“What a blessing that she has been in business that long!” I thought. “AND that she still comes to trade shows! She must really love the work she does!” I was so impressed that for a second I didn’t realize the subtext of our “conversation.”

“I don’t need to learn anything else.”

Wait – what?!

It was such a quick encounter, but I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ve replayed it over and over in my head. This morning I finally realized why this struck such a chord with me.

ramirez-bored-yawnWhen I was working my way through college, I worked for several months in a plastics assembly plant. The work wasn’t hard and I actually enjoyed working with my hands, but I could see the lifeless glaze in the eyes of my co-workers who had been at the job for years – and would probably never leave. They had done the same tasks at the same stations for years. There was no challenge in it for them anymore. They would fall into trance-like states while working. This was not the same look I got when I lost myself in a painting I was working on, when time fell away and I lost track of my surroundings until I came up for air. This was different. For them, everything was the same, with nothing to stimulate or relieve the mindless repetition until lunch time. There was no joy and no pride in what they were doing. It was just a job – something to be done for a paycheck.

Dog grooming, like anything else, has routines. It’s how we maintain consistency, quality, and safety. However, I just can’t imagine being satisfied with doing things the same way, every day, for the rest of my life. After all, technology changes. Breed standards evolve. Styles change. People certainly change. How can anyone in an industry as rich and diverse as ours possibly think that there is nothing more to learn, nothing to be gained by looking at something anew?

“I’m good.”learning-priorities-Development

Anyone in sales or who works a trade show will tell you that you have to accept hearing, “no” more than you hear, “yes.” Was this person just telling me that she didn’t want to spend her money with us? Possibly. Maybe she had other priorities – shampoo, sharpening, new shears – that needed the cash in her wallet. I respect that. The difference is the deferral she gave. It wasn’t, “I already have that,” or “No thanks,” or even, “Leave me alone.” I have a very strong feeling that, had I offered the books for free, I would still have been met with, “I’m good.”

“I’ve been in this business for 28 years….”

I love it when people stop by to tell us how long they’ve been grooming – and that they still love learning new things. I love it because I know they’re happier in their lives. There’s something about trying new things and embracing change that stimulates us and makes us thrive, not just live. Think about the last time you experimented with a new technique. Maybe you tried Asian Fusion for the first time and your customer LOVED it? Maybe you learned a different scissoring method that saved time and effort which enabled you to groom another dog each day – or to go home a little earlier? Maybe you tried a new shampoo that reduced the amount of time you had to spend brushing a tangled pet and your arms weren’t so tired every night?

13178553_10154208688333593_7385084264050383064_nWhatever it was, it happened because you were open to learning something new. Does that mean you HAVE to go out and buy our books? Of course not (although we wouldn’t mind!). Don’t automatically short-change yourself because you’ve been at it for years. There is always something new to be learned and so much more to life than just slogging through the days.

Successful people know that learning is the key to their success. If you settle back and decide that you’ve learnt everything you need to know about running a business, about succeeding in your career or about managing and motivating your team … you’ll lose out to competitors who have a passion for learning.”

So true.

It may not be easy or convenient to learn new things. It takes time to adapt to new things until the change feels natural – but isn’t it worth it? Best friends were strangers at first. Think of all the movies you might have missed, the books you’d never read, and the amazing food you’d never have experienced if you’d never tried anything new. I try new things every day and I can honestly say that because of it…

“I’m good.”

 

Make it a great week!

~ Joelle Asmondy

Are YOU still learning?  What inspires you to keep educating yourself?  Jump over to the Learn2GroomDogs Facebook page and tell us about it!