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5 Keys to Growing a Successful Barbershop

When I was a barber apprentice, I had so many long days of sitting in my chair, wondering if I could really do it, if I had what it took to be a barber. My client base was slim to none, my minimum wage, part-time, night job was keeping me afloat, and I didn’t see a way out.

In the past 5 years, I’ve built a successful barber company with 2 locations that are booming and with plans to add 2 new locations within the next year.

In this blog, I’m going to tell you how I went from being worried about whether I would make it as a barber to building a company that breeds successful barbers.

Implement the steps I took and you’ll be as busy as you can handle and you’ll feel accomplished knowing you’re becoming a key player in the barbering industry.

1. Rebook your clients

When I started out, I would wait for people to text, call, or walk in. I would keep track of my appointments in a small notebook that easily got cluttered.

I started booking and rebooking clients using an appointment system and slowly grew to a consistently booked schedule using the advertising methods I discuss in the next step.

Now, I am consistently booked 30-days. I don’t allow anyone to book past that 30-day window because there was a time when my Fridays and Saturdays were booked 6 months out.

The real secret to getting this busy is to book your client’s next haircut for them after they pay for their service. This will be much more convenient for them and it guarantees you will at least have 1 haircut 4 weeks from then.

Now, imagine if you did that for a month or two straight with every client. That’s right, you would be booked 30-days out.

Think about this: Every new client who comes to you left their previous barber. To make sure that you aren’t the barber who gets left behind, go ahead and plan their next visit for them.

I realized how important this is when I hired Rob Bispo who’s now our Florence Barbershop Manager. When he first joined the team, he was booked a few days in advance but always had holes in his schedule.

After he used my method and started rebooking his clients, he grew to a fully booked 30-day schedule in two months. Now it’s nearly impossible to get an appointment with him.

Rebook your clients at the chair and your books will be slammed.

Get an online booking system

You’re probably thinking, how on earth do you keep up with all of these people? Well, I don’t; my online calendar does.

We use Square Appointments as a booking software and after trying 3 other booking systems, I can confidently say that it is the best. It’s user-friendly - which is the most important part - and it's always accurate.

I can quickly rebook people from an app on my phone so you couldn’t ask for an easier system to use.

After you acquire your online booking system, the next important step is enforcing it without falling back to your old systems of texts and calls.

When someone walks in your shop, hand them a card and tell them to book online. When someone calls or texts, tell them how to find your booking site.

If you don’t have a website, don’t worry. Square makes a website that you can use if you need one.

Get an online booking system today and use it to book and rebook your clients so that you can feel more confident in your schedule and start to build a strong clientele base.

2. Advertise and position yourself correctly

When I first started out, I posted photos of haircuts constantly to try and show my work. That’s not a bad thing to do, but if you do that with a “barber hustle” mentality and talk about yourself and how you’re progressing or how much money you’re making, you’ll turn away all of your potential customers.

It’s all about positioning. If you want to attract more customers, talk about the problem you solve for them. That’s entrepreneurship at its heart, right? Solve a problem and get paid enough to do it again.

Well, what problem to do you solve for your customer? I promise it's not that you help them find a place to throw away their cash. You cut their hair. You make them look better which improves their self-esteem. That’s it. It’s that simple.

Show your customers how much better you can make them look and feel and they’ll flood your shop by the hundreds.

We’ve grown a clientele base of thousands of people who have no idea how much our barbers make, how much cash we accrue, or what toys we buy. Remember from the last video, a barber-hustle mindset gets you nowhere.

They come to us for one reason: We solve their hair and beard problems.

If you want to be a successful barber, you must position yourself in a way that shows your customer that your main focus is on giving them the best haircut they’ve ever had.

There’s an honesty matrix built into this because if all you care about is money, your clients will be able to tell and they’ll start going to a barber who cares about hair.

Care about your customers first and money will be something you don’t worry about ever again.

So, where do you spread the right message?

Work on positioning yourself correctly in your press kits, social media posts, social media ads, blog posts, and marketing materials. However you advertise, position yourself correctly there.

Educate your customers on social media and through blogs and the message that you care about their hair more than your bank account will be loud and clear. This can be in the form of hair styling tips, haircut suggestions, or even something like fashion advice.

Word of mouth is often your best advertisement so remember, your customers will tell their friends about you if you make their life better. They won’t say “this barber is so successful and rich, you should go give them some money too.” They will say, “best haircut of my life. I felt like they took their time and cared about my haircut”

If you internalize this positioning, word of mouth advertising will take care of itself.

3. Take continuing education classes

If you’re not learning, you’re not growing.

Your competitors are learning, so if you are settling for your current amount of knowledge, you’ll get left behind. But, judging from the fact that you’re reading this guide, I’d say you don’t have to worry about getting left behind. You’re someone who learns, grows, and wins.

One of the reasons so many barbershops started to collapse in the US in the 60s was because they refused to learn how to cut and style longer hair. They wanted to stick to short haircuts because “that’s how a real man wears his hair.”

Do you know what happened to people with that mindset? Barbershops were closing at a rate of 3500 per month in the US alone in 1965. That’s what happened to barbers who thought that way.

Now, education is abundant and our culture is (thankfully) much more progressive than it was back then. Barbers need to be up to speed on trends as they change if they want to stay on the frontlines of the industry.

A common way most of us seek education is on YouTube. While that’s not a terrible option, the amount of garbage “education” on YouTube is borderline toxic. I spent the 3rd year of my career unlearning bad habits I’d picked up from YouTube barbers.

The best thing you can do is travel. I recommend going to Glassbox in Canada, Menspire in the UK, or Sassoon Academy. If you see one of these higher level educators is traveling, reach out and ask them to come to you for a private workshop. Seeking an in-person, hands-on experience like this is crucial to your ability to grasp the information.

I’m in charge of education for our staff so I can say from experience that people learn by doing the work themselves. I can lecture for 5 hours but none of it starts to sink in until the barber is holding a comb and scissors, working on a mannequin.

Another reason to seek higher education, other than to grow with the industry, is to grow personally. Human beings are built in a way that we like a challenge. We like seeing areas we can improve and then setting a course to be a better version of ourselves.

That’s exactly what happens when you seek education. You’re finding new mountains that need to be climbed. The friction that happens when you’re learning something new is what keeps you motivated and helps you feel like you’re moving forward.

This will do wonders for your sense of purpose and it will ultimately save you from burnout.

Yes, education is usually expensive, but how much would you pay for something if it was promised to keep you at the top of your industry while helping you maintain a sense of purpose and direction? I would pay quite a bit for that. That’s why I budget for education and we consistently teach each other in-house. It keeps us sharp and focused on a brighter future and it will do the same for you.

4. Use email marketing

Some people think Instagram is all they need or it’s the best way to reach out to their customers. The truth is, Instagrams new algorithms only show your content to 10% of your followers.

Email marketing is a cost-effective and efficient way to keep your clients informed and an email goes to 100% of them. If you’re having a slow week or releasing a new retail product, sending a mass email might as well be a “get money now” button.

So, how do you collect their emails?

If you’re a walk-in only shop, it will be tough. You would have to collect email addresses on your website or by paper and that would be a ton of work. However, if you’re using an online booking system, you’re already collecting your customer's email addresses with each appointment. You have a nice, tidy list of everyone who’s been a customer of yours.

I recommend using a system like MailChimp or Drip to send out your emails. They’re fairly cheap and it’s easy to transfer your contacts from your booking system to an emailing software.

In order to use emails effectively, use this tried and true method:

3 gives for 1 ask. What does that mean? That means you need to send a couple of tips, tutorials, or informative emails for every one email you send asking them to do something.

We send out blogs every other week with tips or staff and client highlights so that when we release a new product, we have already given them so much for free that there is a reciprocity loop. When you give someone something for free, there is a natural urge to return the favor.

If you’re constantly giving away helpful, valuable information, your customers will feel a natural inclination to purchase something from you the next time you ask.

5. Sell the RIGHT products

Break through the glass ceiling

Are your retail sales stagnant? I’ve stressed about products that collected dust and didn’t sell, too, wondering if I could possibly break through the glass ceiling that so many barbers face.

That’s why I’ve spent the past few years figuring out what will sell the best and making sure we are stocked with those products and get rid of the rest.

If you don’t have the right products, your customers will buy their grooming products from someone else.

Here are the biggest questions you need to ask when deciding which products to sell:

What’s in it?

What are the ingredients? Are they natural?

How’s it made?

Where was it made? Is it ethically sourced & manufactured?

Does it work?

Does it perform well? Do people leave good reviews?

People pay attention to the ingredient list so if the products you sell are packed full of silicones, parabens, and sulfates, they won’t buy them.

People are also wary of buying cheap, gimmicky products that are made overseas and don’t work.Men, in general, used to buy something cheap from the store and get half-decent results. Now, people are realizing they don’t have to settle for these terrible products and they’re turning to their barber to show them the best product for their hair.

I searched and searched for products that met these 3 standards but couldn’t find any, so we started making our own.

Now, the products we make sell so quickly that the only challenge is keeping them in stock.

A common objection I hear from barbers is that their clients don’t have good taste in products. Let me make this clear: That’s your fault.

I teach people what pomade is every single day and then sell them a jar of it. You don’t have to be in a big town to sell niche products. You just have to be selling the type of products that actually work for them.

Our original location is in a downtown that is 3 city blocks. Only 30,000 people live within our city limits. We are quite literally in the middle of a small town.

Like our customers, when yours are introduced to the right product, they will never go back to the store bought stuff. They are yours for life.

Our customers purchase products every 3rd or 4th visit and these are people who didn’t know what Beard Oil or Matte Clay was before their first haircut.

We teach them how to style their hair or use the beard products and they’re hooked. Since we are teaching them how to get the look they’ve wanted it builds trust. That trust lets us show them exactly which product will work for them and then they buy it.

So, in summary, if you want to break through the glass ceiling in the barbering industry and increase your retail sales, you need to be selling the right retail products and teaching your customers how to use them.

Here are the main products you need on your shelf in a modern barbershop:

  • Matte finish pomade

  • Pomade with shine

  • Beard Oil

  • Beard Balm

  • Shampoo

  • Conditioner

If you want to be considered to sell the natural, ethically sourced products we make in house, click Apply Now.

If you don’t start selling the right products and just settle for the cheap stuff, you’ll get left behind and the industry will surpass you quickly.

I hope this guide has been helpful for you. I’m confident that if you take action on these 5 steps, you’ll be able to break through the glass ceiling that so many of us get trapped under and you’ll start to see measurable growth in your barbershop.

Robert Watkins
Owner + Founder
The Mailroom Barber Co