Learning to Succeed
Melissa Verplank, CMG, CEO of The Paragon School of Pet Grooming and founder of Learn2GroomDogs.com, discusses the importance of education in the professional grooming industry.
Grooming Business: Why is a formal education so important in the professional grooming industry?
Melissa Verplank: Formal education gives an individual a major head start in their new career. Jobs are plentiful in the field. Thriving salons and exceptional pet stylists know there is more to grooming a dog than just giving them a bath and a haircut. To become skilled and proficient takes dedication to mastering the craft. There is so much to learn, many people struggle with where to even start. Can groomers teach themselves? Sure. But it generally takes longer. My mission has always been to help people accelerate their careers as rapidly as possible. The hands-on, structured training program facilitates the most efficient training opportunity.
GB: How far has education come in the grooming industry over the years?
Verplank: We have seen strides in the education field for professional grooming. When I entered the field in the late 70s, there were very few schools, only a handful of books and a few trade shows around the country. Since then, we have seen voluntary certification organizations form, promoting education, skill-enhancing workshops and testing. Trade shows are flourishing. Successful stylists host private clinics around the country. GroomTeam USA has a system in place to track our country’s leading competitive stylists. Videos created by industry leaders allow access to a wealth of information regardless of where someone lives. The internet has had a huge impact on our industry. With just a few keystrokes, you can find almost anything you might need. One of the exciting things about professional grooming is that there is always something new to learn.
GB: Are you satisfied with the overall level of education among professional groomers or is there room for improvement?
Verplank: There is always room for improvement. Unfortunately, I don’t believe education or continued education is valued as highly as it could be in our field. It always shocks me when I meet a groomer who’s been doing this for years but is attending some type of educational event for the very first time.
GB: What is the ideal way for a novice to gain a foundational education in pet grooming?
Verplank: Entering the grooming industry is easy. There are virtually no barriers to overcome, since the industry is not regulated. Today, individuals have access to a wide variety of quality educational materials. Someone just needs the motivation, dedication and drive. The key is to look for quality educational material being produced by respected leaders in our field.
GB: How important is ongoing education for grooming professionals?
Verplank: Continued education is at the heart of all thriving individuals and businesses. Continuing education not only increases your skill set, it also builds confidence. Experience combined with education demonstrates you are motivated and driven to succeed. Focused ongoing education opens up new possibilities, new knowledge and new skill areas. It’s fun. It’s exciting. In many cases, it allows you to network with others in your field.
GB: What are some of the most effective ways for groomers to continue their education?
Verplank: Start where you are and build your skills up slowly. Begin with a solid foundation consisting of canine (and feline) psychology, pet handling, basic anatomy, breed identification, as well as safety and sanitation. Next, move into what I would consider core skills, including learning about common grooming products, trimming nails, cleaning ears, bathing and drying, brushing, combing and dematting skills, as well as safe and effective equipment handling. Once the core skills have been mastered, branch out to easy haircuts before moving into more advanced all-trim styles and unusual breeds.
GB: What are some common misconceptions about groomer education? How would you dispel them?
Verplank: All grooming education is valuable. As the saying goes, you will only be as good as the instruction that you receive. Be careful. Do your research before you blindly jump in to any type of learning endeavor. Do your research on individuals to find out what their qualifications are. Check credentials, references and reviews before you invest time, energy or money into any type of learning.
GB: What is Paragon School of Grooming’s approach to groomer education?
Verplank: I am a self-taught groomer, but I’ve always understood the importance of education and mastering my trade. When I opened Paragon, my goal was to shorten the learning curve for new individuals entering the field. Today, we teach the skills that took me years to master—and we teach them in just a few months. We focus on foundation and core skills in a structured setting. We simplify the task of grooming pets. By reducing the complex methods and techniques into easy to understand terms, we help individuals quickly master the skills necessary to groom any breed.
GB: How can Learn2GroomDogs.com be a valuable resource for professional groomers?
Verplank: For less than the cost of one groom a month, members have access to our exclusive learning library. Currently we have over 600 “how-to” lessons from top pet stylists and leading industry experts. Our library covers a wide variety of topics related to the grooming industry. Whether our members are just starting out or are seasoned veterans, we have videos in our vast library that will inspire them and help them grow their careers. These lessons are streamed on-demand to any computer or mobile device with a high-speed internet connection.
GB: What does the future hold for Paragon, Learn2GroomDogs.com and professional grooming education overall?
Verplank: The pet industry is an amazing field. The opportunities for well-trained groomers and pet stylists are limitless. Helping people care for their pets is extremely rewarding. Being successful in this career is not a matter of luck. It is based on commitment and dedication. Education, skill enhancement and effective communication are the keys to a successful career. One of my greatest inspirations is to help others in their careers and to inspire them to greater heights. I am always looking for new opportunities to make learning easy and accessible to anybody.