Joe Zuccarello Joins the Melissa Verplank Team

Joe MVHave you ever experienced growing pains with your business? Sometimes it seems like your company is doing great, but you still need more help. The more you work – the more you get behind. You need more talent. Better ideas. New ways to grow the business.

I’ve been there many times. In fact, I’ve disagreed with my brother-in-law, Ron on how to best grow a business. He’s always recommended hiring top talent. I’ve almost always opted to grow my own. Most of the time I’ve been able to cultivate talent to grow my companies from within our team. But this time I’m following Ron’s advice – I’m hiring top talent.

I am so excited to have Joe Zuccarello join our team.

Joe is no stranger to the pet industry, myself, or my team. I have had the privilege of working with Joe on several occasions. For a year, he worked with my team as a consultant in 2009. In 2016, Joe returned to work as a private consultant with my team.

Joe has spent time at The Paragon School of Pet Grooming. He’s been to Whiskers Resort and Pet Spa. He’s spoken to groups of pet professionals at the school. He’s been a Training Partner on Learn2GroomDogs.com. We’ve seen each other at trade shows and had the opportunity to share the lecture stage at industry events. We’ve always had the utmost respect for each other’s knowledge and talents.

I can remember my first meeting with Joe. In that first conversation, I learned he had come from St. Louis, Missouri prior to joining Tropiclean. He had been employed at Kennelwood Village in the early 90’s when Kennelwood had suffered a massive fire.

That’s when we began started learning about each other’s work history. He’d come up through the ranks of the kennel initially as a bather. He left 19 years later after he had become the General Manager, the Director of Licensing and Consulting, the Vice President of Operations, and ultimately the Director of Franchising.

He went on to join Tropiclean as the National Key Account Sales Manager and then the Director of Innovation and Promotion. He was with Tropiclean for nine years.

During his time at Tropiclean, Joe took on a select few private consulting clients. Luckily, I was one of them. Over the years, we learned many unique phases we have affectionately labeled “Joe-isms.”

What are “Joe-isms?”

Quote In A CircleThey are concise words and phrases that just pop out of his mouth. When they spring from his lips, they always have far reaching meanings. Even though they are simple, their meaning is instantly clear.

Here are a few examples.

  • “There is always a thing behind the thing.”
  • “Force = Failure”
  • “Direct & Expect”
  • “E2” is our in-house term for Evaluate & Elevate

The first time Joe toured Whiskers, he was taken back by the vision and design of Whiskers. But he had one suggestion to improve. The idea cost nothing and instantly turned the pet resort from a 45-room facility into a 90-room facility. The idea was simple: shut the doors between the Suites and the Patios and offer the clients a choice of accommodations based on price. Brilliant.

This single idea, combined with a phenomenal team who always focus on customer experiences, catapulted our growth.  In 2014, we grew from 10,000 square feet to 30,000. Whiskers currently employs over 60 staff members to take care of our canine and feline guests. We handle upwards of 200 pets a day in overnight lodging and daycare. Whiskers runs at 90% occupancy rate or above with 180 rooms, all year long. The grooming department handles between 175-275 dogs every week, and our day care attendance is staggering.

The Educational TeamWhy did Joe join our team?

Joe and I think alike. Our thoughts, goals, and dreams align. We see both a serious need and huge opportunities in the pet service education arena. Every team member brings skills to the table. The Melissa Verplank Brand has many company badges. But they all align with this belief – the more people we can help in pet care services, the better we will elevate trust, service, and well-being for pets and their owners everywhere. We help professional pet enthusiasts grow their careers to a higher level in all aspects of the industry.

The new identity of the Melissa Verplank Brand is based on professional business development. We have many companies under that umbrella. We’re ready to dig in and get started, having a massive impact on the landscape of the pet services profession.

We are thrilled to get started on this new journey together. The MV team is excited. We all see the opportunities to help thousands if not millions of people and the pets they love.  Like our catch phrase for the past 26 years at The Paragon School of Pet Grooming has been, “We turn dreams into reality.”

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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How to Set a Tuck-Up

I love it when I get questions from our Learn2Groomdogs.com members. Not long ago, Mishelle H. asked if I could do a blog about tuck-ups. She said, “I’m never satisfied with mine.  Skirted breeds or not, just can’t seem to master them.”

It would seem to be a simple question, but there’s no one answer. There are variables depending on many things, including:

  • the type of dog you are working on
  • the type of haircut
  • the type of coat
  • the technique you choose to use to establish the tuck-up area

BichonWhat is the tuck-up area on a dog?

It’s the natural waistline.

The waistline is made up of the loin in the flank. It falls right behind the rib cage and before the rump. Depending on the dog’s build, some waistlines are well-established. Others are barely visible due to bone structure or being overweight.

Ideally, you want to see a bit of a waistline on most dogs. However, that waistline does not wrap all the way around the dog. It’s a pocket just below the loin in the flank area where the back leg joins the body. Depending on the dog’s conformation, this is a key balance point.

A knowledgeable pet stylist can enhance any dog’s physique by proper placement. Improper placement detracts from the overall balance of the haircut. Setting the tuck-up correctly brings harmony to the entire trim. If the pet has enough coat, a talented stylist can give the illusion of a well-defined waistline even if the physique is less than perfect. Incorrectly setting the tuck-up makes a dog look unbalanced and structurally unsound.

How do you find the tuck-up?

Here are three different ways to find the proper placement for the tuck-up on a dog. There is no hard-set rule as to what is right – or wrong. Choose one or incorporate all methods into your everyday grooming.

  • The Last Rib Method

The highest point of the undercarriage making up the tuck-up falls just below the last rib. Put your hands on the dog. Feel for the ribs. Directly below the last two ribs is typically the highest point on the undercarriage line. This would be the point of tuck-up. Depending on which type of haircut you are working on and the physique of the dog, you might need to carve the area out slightly below the loin in behind the ribs to show off “well sprung ribs.” However, when you look at the dog from top, you will should not see an indentation near the loins on the topline.

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  • The Rule of Thirds

Measure a dog into divided thirds. The measurements would be from the point of shoulder to the point of rump. The highest point on the undercarriage line forming your tuck-up will be at the 2/3 point. The rear assembly of the dog will make up the final 1/3. It could be a Poodle, a Setter, or a Terrier. It works on almost any breed carrying coat. When the tuck-up point is set at the 2/3 – 1/3 point, it will balance a dog, giving it a pleasing appearance.

  • Use the Stifle to Find the Tuck-up Point

Many professional pet stylists simply use the back leg to measure where the tuck-up should be set. They gently ask the dog to pick up its back leg, pushing it towards its body. The knee or stifle joint will hit right about where the tuck-up point should be set. If it does not touch directly, simply visualize a straight line from the stifle to the body near the last rib. This is your tuck-up area for that dog.

KathyYou’ve found the tuck-up – now what?

How do you scissor it in?

It depends.

Are you dealing with a flowing undercarriage like many Sporting dogs or something that’s tightly tailored as with many of the Terriers? Maybe you’re dealing with breeds that are fully sculpted (such as the Bichon or the Poodle) or even many drop-coated breeds and pet trims.

With long flowing undercarriages, you simply find the highest point and start from there. Most of your active dogs are going to call for a deeper chest. The highest point of the tuck-up will be the shortest part of the drape. It will angle down towards the pastern joints and sweep up into the chest. From the tuck-up into the rear leg, the longer coat will drape accentuating the bend of the knee or stifle joint and sweep either into the foot or the hock joint, depending on the breed.

Many of the long-legged Terrier-type breeds, have just enough coat on their undercarriage to accentuate the depth of chest. The tuck-up point will accentuate a well-balanced dog of substantial build. This type of styling does not leave along drape of coat on the underside of the dog. There’s only enough coat to accentuate the depth of chest. The depth of chest is normally at the level of the elbow. There will be a slight incline from the point of tuck-up towards the elbow, showing off a deep-set chest. From the tuck-up towards the rear leg, the fringe of coat will connect the stifle joint to the body and the rib cage. If you were to back comb the blending line along the lower sides of the dog, it should transition smoothly from the shorter coat on the body. Depending on the dog’s conformation, some dogs will have slightly longer furnishings while other dogs will have almost none. However, almost all of them will have a slight amount of coat in the flank area connecting the tuck-up into the rear leg blending with the stifle.

On stylized longer trims where the dog has a fuller body and even more stylized legs, you will need to scissor in the tuck-up by hand. You can use straight shears, curved shears, chunkers, or thinners.

Lindsey Dicken has a technique that works well with any type of scissor. She calls at the “windshield washer technique.” Once you have established the tuck-up area, you need to carve in a waistline. This waistline will be a little pocket in the flank area only. It does not go into the loin or the back. The purpose of this point is to establish a balanced haircut with a well-bodied dog in physically good shape. The little curved space accentuates the spring of rib and gives the dog the little waistline. It also defines the rear assembly.

Bichon 2 LLindsey’s technique is simple. You place the pivot point of the shear right at the tuck-up area. The screw of the shear will not move. It stays anchored. The tips of the shears sweep back and forth like a windshield wiper. It will create the slight divot of the waistline while blending the stifle smoothly into well-sprung ribs.

For those of you who are Learn2GroomDogs.com members, I have created four Spotlight Sessions featuring the techniques outlined in this blog. I’ve selected different breeds with four different Training Partners as they set in the tuck-ups.

If you’re not a member of Learn2GroomDogs.com, take advantage of coupon code tuckupblog and get 50% off our normal low price of $42 for a one-month subscription now until February 28, 2018. Each month you have unlimited access to over 600 educational grooming videos. Our training partners are some of the top pet stylists in the world – yet every one of them works on every day dogs, just like you, in their salons.

  1. Setting the Tuck-Up While Shaping the Rib Cage Area on a Kerry Blue Terrier with Cheryl Purcell
  2. Setting the Underline Area on a Show Styled Bichon with Lindsey Dicken
  3. The 1/3 – 2/3 Balance Rule: Setting the Tuck-up and Undercarriage on an English Setter with Irina “Pina” Pinkusevich
  4. Establishing the Tuck-Up & Setting the Undercarriage on a Pet Schnauzer with Kathy Rose

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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Why Vacations Are Beneficial To Everyone

Quote In A CircleWhen I am speaking at industry events, I like to ask, “How many of you took a vacation last year?” It’s shocking how often large portions of my audiences do not raise their hands.

We groomers are hard workers, and it’s easy to find reasons or excuses not to take time off. But down time is good for you. It’s good for your staff. Research proves its good for everyone’s mental and physical health. Plus, it boosts productivity in the long run.

My companies have always had generous vacation policies. I firmly believe personal time to rest and relax or to pursue other activities improves morale. It’s important to everyone’s well-being to spend quality time with loved ones, relax, or have new adventures.

I just returned from one of my favorite vacations. I’m fortunate. I have a father who has had a sailboat in the Caribbean Islands for over 30 years. Rarely a year passes that I don’t get to spend time with my dad, friends, and family on the boat.  This year my close friend and industry leader, Judy Hudson, was able to join my husband Marc and I on the boat.

Judy is a doer. A get-it-done kind of gal. She works incredibly hard. She never stops. She is always making decisions. She’s always responsible.

Snorkling w JudyWith her arrival to the Sundowner in St. Lucia, all of that went away. She could just relax and stop – something very rare for Miss Judy. She was able to experience new things, some pushing her way out of her comfort zone. Snorkeling in the turquoise waters of the open sea. Sailing for up to eight hours. Together we went to amazing locations and had plenty of fabulous food. We even got to watch a whale swim beside the boat for a short time before it dove to the depths of the ocean.

It took her a few days to fall into the “island time groove,” but she did. I think it was the first time I’ve ever seen this woman just stop and fully relax.

By the time our time was up, we were all rested and refreshed – ready to tackle the world upon our return to our everyday lives.

Vacations are not a luxury. They’re a necessity for a healthy, well-balanced life. They are as important as eating well and getting exercise. You don’t necessarily have to go to an exotic location, spend a lot of money, or travel to distant lands to have a relaxing vacation. Some of the best vacations could be “stay-cations” where you’ve never left home.

The key to any successful vacation is in the planning and getting a break from your usual routine.

sailingHere are a few benefits for creating downtime.

  1. Vacations Alleviate Stress – Stress is a response originally meant to help keep us safe. It releases hormones for the flight or fight response necessary for our early survival. However, today, chronic stress can be destructive to us both mentally and physically. Getting away for regular vacations, leaving our everyday stresses behind, gives us a break. Vacations allow the consistent high levels of stress-related hormones to subside. They also give your body the opportunity repair some of the damage.
  2. Vacations Help Maintain Focus – Studies find chronic stress can hamper goal-directed activities and causes problems with memory. Working without breaks, down time or vacations can make people feel stuck, frustrated and distracted. Studies show almost 75% of people who vacation regularly feel energized and ready to tackle the tasks at hand.
  3. Vacations Make You Happier – Chronic exposure to stress contributes to depression and anxiety. Studies shows that women who do not take regular vacations are three times more likely to be depressed and anxious. Reports find people who take regular vacations feel happy with an overall feeling of well-being compared to those who did not vacation.  Many stated these effects lasting beyond their actual vacation.
  4. Vacations Reduce Illness – Stress can alter your immune system, making you vulnerable to many illnesses. With a weakened immune system, you are more susceptible to common illnesses like the cold or flu. But long-term stress can also make you much more prone to more serious illnesses, as well.
  5. Vacations Support Relationships – Vacationing with your family or loved ones helps create closer bonds. These shared experiences promote family ties. Family vacations create more memories than any other activity. Vacationing together creates experiences that remain in your memory. Studies find people place a greater value on their shared experiences over material items they have accumulated in their lifetime.
  6. Vacations Make You More Productive – Research shows the more vacation time people have, the more productive they become. Regular vacations also reduce the number of missed workdays. At work, vacations increase production and job satisfaction.

When was last time you took a vacation where you could just decompress? Taking a vacation can do amazing things for your well-being – even if it is a well-planned out stay-cation.

As an employer, encouraging your team to take vacation time will improve morale. Even short vacations help. We see this every day at one of my companies. At Whiskers Resort & Pet Spa, we make people use their vacation time. With almost 60 staff members, last year only two people did not use ALL their time. I firmly believe this contributes to the amazing harmony we have with the team.

Judy Marc MV in BequiaIf you are feeling run down, stressed, frustrated, or overworked – take the time to unwind. Step away from the grooming table. Step away from the shop. Step away from the business.

I encourage you to make down time for yourself and your fellow team members. True vacations renew and reboot your system. Typically, people return from vacation refreshed which increases productivity and thinking clarity.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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Dealing with Trouble Areas in Fur

4rr-300x201Mats.

Tangles.

Knots.

Call them what you like. That woven mess of dirt and hair can often determine what kind of trim can be done on a pet. They are the best friend – and the worst enemy – of the professional pet groomer.

The key to dealing with these trouble areas is knowing how to identify them and deal with them effectively.

4 Types of Mats

  1. Lack of Maintenance: These mats are the results of dirt, static, and moisture. The owner brushes between grooming appointments but these sessions are not as effective or as frequent as they should be. More frequent bathing and brushing to remove dense undercoat is needed in these cases. The mats produced from poor maintenance are generally smaller and can be removed with the proper knowledge, tools, and products.
  2. Neglect: These tangles are tough. Typically, these mats are the result of longer-term neglect and are very tight and difficult to remove. The dog’s coat is often in extremely overall poor shape and is very dirty. They can be a hiding place for pests like fleas and ticks and may lead to skin damage or injury.
  3. Friction: Friction mats are caused when two areas rub together. It could be from a collar, dog sweater, or from a body part (like behind the ears or under the front legs) – but is not limited to those areas. Depending on the activity level of the dog, friction mats could be found up and down the legs, on long ears, or the tail. These are the areas that come in contact with other areas like tall grasses or even the ground.
  4. Compression: This type of tangle is generally found on the rear of the dog. It is caused from sitting or lying down. Dogs that shed heavily will have dead coat packed into the guard coat, and if not removed, will clump and mat as moisture and compression do their work. Just like people, dogs tend to be left or right-sided. The compression type density will be worse on one side more than the other.

Here’s your secret strategy for dealing with tangles: find them before the client leaves!

Quote In A CircleThat means at check-in. This is not just a time to be catching up with your client. Use this time to diagnose problem areas with their pet’s coat. Get your hands – not just your eyes – on the dog. The eyes can be deceiving. The owner doesn’t even have to be aware of what you’re doing.

I disguise my hands-on inspection as a meet-and-greet to the pet. It warms up both the pet and the client. But more importantly, it gives me valuable information that I can use to communicate effectively with a customer about the type of trim we can do, the cost, and the amount of time it will take.

Sink your hands deep into the coat. Keep moving. Feel under the ears, in the armpits – get to those friction and compressed areas so there are no surprises once you get the dog in the tub. Do you know what you’re feeling for? You’re trying to find patches of density/inconsistent density in the fur. You should be able to come into contact with the skin. Often, your client will insist that the dog is completely brushed out when they’ve really just been brushing out the tops of matted areas. This is where your comb comes in handy for a demonstration. Sink the comb through the coat. If you feel resistance, that’s your matted area.

Remember, the groom starts as soon as the client walks in the door, not when the dog is on your table. You should start assessing the dog visually as soon as the pet walks in and continue your examination until you are satisfied that you have found everything you need to discuss before your client leaves. Having to make repeated phone calls because you didn’t take the time to properly check over a pet will annoy your client – and will waste much of your own precious time.

Don’t stop there. You should always have a comb within reach. Clients may not always understand what a mat is, but it’s hard to deny a comb stuck firmly in the middle of tangled fur. It’s also a great way to open the discussion about the necessities of combing, as well as brushing, to maintain proper coat condition.

If there are problems or issues, I want to deal with them immediately before the client leaves. In the service-based business, education is the key. Most of the time, this means educating the client as to what is proper maintenance for their pet. Guide their hands to the problem areas. Have them feel for themselves what to watch for, so that when they’re brushing their pet at home they are better able to identify mats and how to deal with them. Many first time pet owners have really no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into when it comes to proper pet maintenance. They may love the idea of having a Golden Doodle, but have no idea that they should be groomed more than twice a year.

This is the perfect time to do that. With new clients, I would talk to them about trim options based on the condition of their pet. If their pet is in extremely difficult condition, I would talk to them about the risk factors the pet is going to experience due to its condition. Explain the potential risks that could occur during dematting. And always have the owner sign a pet release form. It also offers you an opportunity to offer beneficial special products or services.

By using your training, experience, and professional intuition, you can educate your client and make a real difference in the lives of the pets entrusted to your care.

Happy trimming!

Melissa

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What is your favorite dematting tool? When it comes to dematting, are you reluctant to charge fairly for your time? Jump on our Facebook page and share your thoughts with your Melissa Verplank family.