Congrats! You’re open!
…now what? Unless you have some celebrity status, chances are, you’re not going to be slammed your first day, or month, hell, maybe even year.
At 10:59AM on a Monday not long ago, Chris and I flipped the lock on the barber shop and declared ourselves officially open. And you know what happened?
I think Chris cut two haircuts and watched a ton of movies on Netflix. So…you’re doomed to fail, right? Not so fast.
YOU’RE OPEN. NOW WHAT?
Stay the course. There’s so many sayings out there that’ll say that same thing. “Fake it till you make it,” “Good things take time,” “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” etc. And it’s all true. It takes time.
We’re on a street with a large hooligan problem. One hooligan who was always wearing a Blue Jay’s jersey would stop by every once in a while and tell Chris, “You’re gonna make it, I believe it.” Every time he would pass by, he gave Chris a thumbs up. It was encouraging.
Just because it takes time though, doesn’t mean you should act differently than you would if it was busy. Every haircut mattered to us. We didn’t give off an air of desperation, but we also didn’t treat the first few people like they were our one-and-only best friend. It sets a precedent and we wanted to be honest with how we treated people. We didn’t want people to feel like we used them to get busy, but we also wanted to be appreciative. Chris is really great with people, so this is all my observation watching him and discussing it later on.
Don’t try to replicate. This comes a lot from my experience in the wedding photo industry, but also a bit in the barber world. There are going to be trends everywhere. For a while, bright, barely any contrast wedding photos were popular. We were slow starting off with weddings, so I edited a session like the ‘popular’ style. I fucking hated it. It matched the ‘popular’ photographers styles, but it looked like shit to me. I never delivered those photos and I’m sure glad I didn’t, because they went out of style about a year later. When the “orangey-bronze” phase came in style next, I knew better.
It’s hard to not try and mimic who’s popular, especially when you see them turning out work and you’re not. But if people wanted the other person’s work, they would just go to them. There’s already a them and they have a market. There are people out there waiting for a you.
I spent years creating my signature processing style for my photos and you can tell a haircut from our shop from a line-up most of the time because of the things we do. That speaks for itself.
REVIEWS MEAN EVERYTHING. Honest ones. Not the ones your Mom and Grandma leave. It’s really awkward at first having to ask, but it’s worth it.
Chris wanted to get on the first places listed section of Google when we opened. He zeroed in on it and started asking people to leave a review for us because it’s how small businesses get seen. Our customers came through and left reviews for us and after each one, we climbed the ranks. For the photo business, we reminded people to tag us when they shared the photos and leave us Facebook reviews, and it worked. You can research algorithms all day, but it basically boils down to, the more people interact with your online presence, the more visible you’ll be.
95% of your business is going to be repeat customers. Those repeat customers will refer other people who will turn into repeat customers. Take care of the people you have and they’ll bring more people to you.
TREAT EVERYONE LIKE A PERSON. Customers are NOT numbers. They deserve to be seen, heard, and appreciated. Chris has gathered so many life lessons, stories, and knowledge from every single person who passes through the shop that I cannot imagine how dull our life would be if we treated them like a number with money in their pockets. We LOVE hearing our customers lives progress and we worry about them when we don’t see them for a while. They’re human and we really, really like having them come in.
Don’t bother with contests and giveaways. I did a giveaway a couple times. Nothing happened. Unless you’re raffling something off for a good cause or it’s something big (like a Harley Davidson Panhead) I don’t think it’s worth it. I, and many others, are so tired of seeing a giveaway everywhere we turn. I probably won’t win it, so it’s probably not worth the effort and shit ton of emails or commenting, to enter. That’s the mindset. Even discounts don’t seem to really matter. We passed out a shit ton of $2 off coupons before we opened, and not ONE got brought in.
Instead, spend your time interacting with other people. I used the shops Instagram and just surfed relevant hashtags, commenting everywhere. If someone you don’t know comments on a photo of your motorcycle with something other than (ClIcK fOr LiKeS) you’re going to check them out. It’s easy. People are nosey. Pretend you’re the consumer, how would you go about finding you?
It’s okay if not everyone likes you. Not everyone liked/likes our shop. We swear too much. We have motorcycle magazines with boobs in them. There are people smoking crack across the street. We play punk/hardcore music. So on and so fourth. We’ve had people come in, then never come back. We’ve had people abruptly leave after coming in. We’ve had people drive by and decide we’re not for them. AND THAT’S TOTALLY FINE. I don’t want someone at the shop who doesn’t want to be at the shop and we’ve realized that it’s not a reflection or a personal dig at us. We’re just not for them and that’s fine. There’s someone for everyone. Trust me. We know some people who do some WEIRD SHIT and even they have an audience. You’ll attract your people, but you’ve got to put yourself out there.
Collaborate, make friends. You catch more flies with honey. Make friends with your “competition” when you can, without betraying your own compass. If there is someone in your industry you just can’t get behind, then that’s fine. But don’t go out there and shit talk them because it’s going to make you sound like a jealous asshole. Just ignore them. Anyone else though? Be friends. Business friends. Keep an open line of communication, refer people their way when you think they could help better than you could. It’s a two way street!
When you do collaborations, make sure you stick with people who fit your business. When trying to figure out which products to carry in the shop, we reached out before we opened to multiple different pomade companies. One sent us a Google Street view screenshot of the face of our building that was under construction and told us we didn’t exist, so no, they wouldn’t wholesale to us. We scratched them off immediately because the way they treated clients wasn’t how we would want to treat OUR clients. We were lucky enough to find Tip Top Pomade and we have a phenomenal relationship with them. They fit our business, we partnered up.
We did a collaboration with another company that just wasn’t our jam at all. We got maybe two clients from them, but I really wish we had decided to not do it looking back. Chris had to go in early, and give someone a free haircut and if the clients we got from it hated our shop because it didn’t fit the reputation of the promoting company, they could have left us a really shitty review and that would have hurt us. SO BE CHOOSEY. I know it’s rough because you’re willing to do anything to make your business work, but that can hurt you in the long run.
Like always, THESE ARE NOT GUARANTEED TO WORK. These are just a page from our book. Have questions? Just worried? EMAIL ME! email@example.com