By Jeff Robinson
Bi-weekly I like to visit a barber. I like my hair to be short and tidy. A good barber can buzz cut me in 5-7 minutes. Tack on a shave and you are good to go in 15 minutes.
When I first arrived in Barcelona a friend introduced me to a “stylist” who charged me E27 for 15 minutes work, 5 minutes of cutting and 10 minutes of him talking – about himself. The cut was good, (difficult really, to mess up a buzz cut) but E27 was outrageous. Walking about my neighbourhood I stumbled upon the chain Marco Aldany. Very nice facilities and E12 for the cut. Price/Value getting better but still not where I thought it ought to be. One day I cycled down to the El Born district. Eureka! Barber shops everywhere: “Haircut E5″. Then I spotted one at E4. Is it possible? How could you earn a decent living charging E4 a cut?
12 years ago Umair Qamar M.Sc.(Eng) arrived in Barcelona from his hometown state of Gujarat, India. Like so many, Umair came to Barcelona with high hopes and dreams. He wanted badly to be an engineer. For 2 years he pounded the pavement in search of a job. He took on odd jobs to earn enough income to survive, not once ever depending on any government handouts. His tireless search for employment was fruitless. He came to the realization that he would not be able to use his professional engineering skills. So what to do?
Umair’s father has owned and operated a small 1 seat barber shop in Gujarat for 57 years. His dad has cut over 500,000 heads of hair in his career. His dad charges 1E equivalent per cut and the seat in his shop is always filled. He does about 30 cuts a day earning E40 – E50 equivalent a day with tips – a very good income for the area.
Umair had a thought. If my dad can earn a good wage, support his family, have disposable income for the occasional holiday and be liked by everybody – why not give it a try.
Umair had saved enough money to rent out a small shop in the El Born. He painted the premises, cleaned and made it spotless. He bought a used chair in good condition. He had only one question before opening his doors for business. What do I charge? Umair spent the next couple of days scoping out the competition. He concluded that all the shops were basically the same. So how could he differentiate himself from the others? A call to his dad and he had the answers.
(His dad’s answers, slightly adapted)
#1 “Dress for success! Wear a nicely pressed pair of pants and a clean shirt. Make sure to be well coiffed, after all you are a barber. Be clean-shaven. Smell clean and fresh.”
#2 “Keep the store not just clean, but extra clean. Show your customers you care.”
#3 “Keep your price just below the competition and offer more. Finish each cut with a 2 minute Indian head massage. The customers will leave with a big smile. They will tell their friends to come. You will earn extra income from tips.”
#4 “Cut with intensity and precision. Make sure every line is straight and never ever miss a hair. Triple check your work.”
#5 “Have interesting wisdom to share with your clients. Read a lot. Be a good listener.”
#6 “Work hard long hours each and every day. 7 days a week. 9am till 9pm. One hour for lunch to regain your strength and focus.”
#7 “Be courteous to all in your neighbourhood, they will become your customers.”
#8 “Remember your customer’s names. Greet them with a big smile and hello. Thank them for coming when they leave. They will feel special.”
#9 “Exercise daily. Your mind and body will need it.”
#10 “Invest in a comfortable pair of dress shoes.”
Fast forward to the present. Umair owns 3 barber shops. He is married with 4 children. He takes 2 weeks holiday per year. He cuts on average 40 heads a day. His overhead is negligible. Do the math, he’s earning a very good living. In his spare time he uses his engineering expertise to fix electronic equipment for others.
“My goal is to cut 500,000 heads just like my father. I will have earned a very good honest living through hard work.” Umair said. He added:” Make your customers happy, they will always return and bring friends.”
Simple sage advice…