I am trying to become a better businessman. As Founder of the advertising agency The Weaponry, I look for any advantages, advice and examples I can get. To help my cause I regularly read books, blogs and magazines. I listen to podcasts and audiobooks. I meet with other business Founders, CEOs and CFOs. But lately I’ve been studying the tricks and techniques of a profession where many of the industry’s best never went to college. Of course I am talking about hairdressers. (I say ‘of course’ because it’s in the title of the post).
Hair and Me
Since I was a teenager I believed I would go bald. I wasn’t afraid of it. I just believed it would happen based on the extensive foreheads of my forefathers. For 15 years I prepared for the inevitable by shaving my head each year from March until September. Then a funny thing happened. When I turned 35 my doctor told me my hair wasn’t going anywhere. After my ‘Whatchutalkinbout Willis?’ reaction, I celebrated by letting my hair grow for an entire year. (I really know how to party, right?) At the end of that year I had to clean up my new mop. It was then that I met Angie.
Angie Eger in Columbus, Ohio is an amazing hair-ess. She cut and styled my hair well. She was really fun to be around. But she also had tough conversations with me. Everything she suggested, that I initially resisted, I eventually did. She was right about everything from long layers, to leave-in conditioner, to eyebrow taming. As I studied Angie’s approach, I recognized that our businesses are a lot alike (aside from the ear trimming). And I started using a hairdresser’s model for service with my business.
5 things great hairdressers and barbers do that you can apply to your career.
1. They listen well.
This is an essential skill in the hair game. You must listen to what your client or customer is looking for. Once you start cutting hair it is really hard to glue it back together. Make sure you are clear on the objectives and the vision up front. At Red’s Classic Barbershop in Indianapolis and Nashville, they take notes on each customer. This helps them accumulate knowledge about individual preferences, products, clippers, shave notes, and general do’s and don’ts.
Any profession can do this with their clients. Do you?
2. They always offer their professional advice.
Hair is too important to get wrong. So when the customer makes a clearly flawed request, the hairdresser must explain the downside to the ask. Or the upside to other options. Unlike missteps in many other industries, you can’t quickly recover from a bad haircut. Alexandra ‘Red’ Ridgway of Red’s says,
“The customer is not always right or reasonable, and they need to know that we have a vested interest in making them look their best.”
Do you have the fortitude to tell your clients they have asked for a mullet, and that it is no longer 1989?
3. They make you look and feel more attractive. This is the whole point of the profession. To make you look and feel great. Advertising and marketing works exactly the same way. At The Weaponry our mission is to make our clients more attractive to their most important audience. If they don’t look good, we don’t look good. Vidal Sassoon taught me that. Your happy customer is the best marketer of your work.
4. They are trustworthy. When you get your hair cut you put your self-image in the hands of another person. This can be very scary. Alexandra said,
“The sense of self related to image is precious and requires great trust. The major transformations that happen when people shave their beards, cut off a ponytail or dreadlocks are very personal. The trust involved in helping a customer through those transitions is huge.’
Do your clients have a metaphorical beard, ponytail or dreadlocks? If so, the necessary changes they must make to cut them off can be very personal. Not any old hairdresser will do.
5. You enjoy spending time with them. Above all else, I looked forward to seeing Angie. Getting my haircut with her was fun. We talked. We laughed. We developed a great relationship. This is a what separates the pros from the amateurs. You can get all of the other points right and still starve if you don’t nail this. It’s a simple fact that getting your haircut is an intimate act. The hair professional washes your hair. Touches your hair, your ears, your neck. And maybe the top of your toes (we all have issues). If you don’t have great interpersonal skills this becomes a super awkward interaction. If you have great skills in this arena you will book all the hours you are willing to work.
I will continue to encourage the team at The Weaponry to study great advertising minds like David Ogilvy, and great marketers like Richard Branson. But they will also learn lessons from Angie Eger and other great hair people. If your hair professional does something great that others could learn from, let me know in the comment section. If you are a hair professional I would love to hear from you too. If you are Angie Eger, I would love for you to set up shop in my new hometown. Because my hairdo is overdue for a redo.