What is your competitive advantage as a barber?

What is your competitive advantage as a barber?

January 10, 2022

As of writing this in December 2021, I’ve been a barber in the hair industry for around 8 years. I’ve witnessed a few forms of competition that muster a wide range of reactions from fear and rage to inspiration and gratitude.

What do I mean when I say competition? This is how I’ve seen it show up so far:

  1. Competing for market share within a specific city, town or barbershop
  2. Competing for recognition and perceived value in the broader market of the hair industry
  3. Competing to achieve higher levels of mastery. This is usually measured by comparing your work to others.

Three mentalities and their response to competition

Indifference

I’ve met some people who can only name one or two shops in their town other than their own. They don’t necessarily care about the larger market because their goals lie outside of their career and they don’t spend energy thinking about their peers. (There’s nothing wrong with this if that’s you!)

Scarcity

People who are of this mindset see their peers as threats. They see other barbershops, salons, and haircutters as actively working to steal their clientele and run them out of business. They are constantly comparing their “success” to others to see where they rank.

I’ve experienced this response personally, especially in times where I’m working to build a clientele from scratch. I felt myself develop the scarcity mentality out of fear. I was afraid I wouldn’t build a big enough clientele which would mean I couldn’t pay my bills.

Fears are there to keep us safe from danger. But If fear is left unchecked, it will tell you a story that there are only a certain number of resources (in our case, clients) to go around and if you don’t fight to steal them from other barbers/stylists, you’ll be left out in the cold. Scarcity tells the story “If they win, I fail.” and vice versa.

When we’re having this response to competition, we are viewing our peers as enemies. We want them to fail so we can win.

Abundance

Abundance tells a different story: There’s plenty to go around. If other people succeed, I cheer for them. My goals aren’t dependent on the success or failure of others. I am safe on my own path.

In this mindset, we respond to competition with gratitude. We see a haircut another barber posts and think “wow, they killed that. Good for them! I want to try that sometime.” instead of “Hopefully they don’t ‘steal’ my clients.”

There are so many people who haven’t heard of your shop who want to know about you. When we see the true abundance of the world, we have no problem waiting for clients to find us.

Unchecked paradigms that need to shift:

  • People are stealing my clients.

No client is “yours.” Your appointment book is made up of people who made a personal choice to get their haircut by you. They can choose tomorrow to leave your chair.

  • Other barbers' success means my failure.

Negative. Have you ever noticed CVS is always across the street from Walgreens? Burger king is next door to McDonalds? That’s no accident. They found the sales in both stores GO UP when they are next to their main competitor. They become a destination for a specific need instead of an isolated provider. (You know where I’m going with this, don’t you?)

  • I have to keep my prices lower than my competitors.

If your customer’s main concern was a cheap haircut, they would go to Walmart, buy a $15 pair of clippers, and live the rest of their life paying $0 for at-home buzz cuts.j

Your clients visit you because they value quality over price or convenience, and they happen to like the way YOU make them look.

So what is my competitive advantage?

You.

You are your competitive advantage.

There are better haircutters than you. (sorry, there are) There are cheaper haircuts than yours. There are more convenient barbershop locations. There are salons that offer free shoulder massages and you might not. There are shops with pool tables and 8 beer taps and every sport channel playing and free cigars and... you get my point.

So why do you have a clientele?

Because your clients like the way YOU take care of them. That’s something no one can rip off or steal from you. No one can take away the topics of conversation that interest you and your clients. No one can understand the way your client wants to look exactly the way you do. No one has YOUR life experience and the energy YOU bring into a room.

If we maintain an abundance mentality, you can trust the fact that you will naturally attract clients by simply being yourself, connecting with people, and giving them the best haircut you can.

How an abundance mentality can benefit you

Raising your prices

If you are about to raise prices in your shop, what’s the first thing you do?

You check other shops to see what the current market value is for a haircut in your city.

Guess what happens when you raise prices higher than anyone else? Scarcity says you lose your clients to the cheaper barber. Abundance says it allows other people to raise their prices when they’re ready as well and the right clients will stick with you.

When we look around at other service menus as a meter for what we can charge, we are letting scarcity put a ceiling on what we can charge. If we adopt abundance and think of our competitors as peers, we can BOTH raise our prices beyond what we previously thought possible.

I recently (Jan 2022) raised my personal price for a haircut from $32 to $45. I’m sure I’ve lost a couple of clients in the process but it’s important to me to help raise the ceiling for what my local barbering community can charge. So far clients have responded graciously. (I was honestly terrified to make this big of a jump but I leaned HARD on my trust in abundance and what do you know, it’s working out fine)

Creating a hair scene in your city

I live in Greenville, SC. There are more coffee shops and coffee roasters in this city than any other in SC. Scarcity assumes they are all slow and struggling because of market saturation (which is definitely a real thing, for the record).

Nope. Every shop in town is slammed. Why? We have a coffee SCENE. I say “we” because I’m proud to be a part of it. I just order coffee from 5+ coffee shops and I feel like I’m a part of something bigger than myself. Not only are they thriving, but they push each other to be better.

So when we push each other forward and compete, we are raising the bar for what clients expect. That means haircut quality in the area has to go up. Prices too. Your city then becomes a DESTINATION for great haircuts. Like Brooklyn is for fashion, or Nashville is for music, or Asheville is for beer.

Leaning on your fellow barbers and stylists

Not only can we learn from each other and build our collective knowledge, but we can take care of each other. Imagine a hair community that could call each other and say things like:

“I can’t fit so and so in today but you would kill their haircut. Do you have any openings?”

“My chair broke and I have a full book of clients. Can I borrow one for a week?”

“My shop was broken into and I had to order tools online but they’re backordered. Got any spares?”

 

A few suggestions for how we make this happen

 

  • Encourage local barbers/stylists when you see them putting out good work.
  • View the haircutters in your area as allies in building the hair scene instead of wishing for their failure.
  • Push yourself and others to get better at cutting hair. Take classes, ask questions, try that new technique you’re scared to break out.
  • Most of all, let’s adopt an abundance mentality to see that we are strongest together and there are plenty of clients to go around.

If you’re in the haircutting community and want to talk about ways to build up a hair scene, send me an email or DM and let’s connect.

robert@themailroombarberco.com

@robertcwatkins

Thanks for reading. I hope this resonates with you and we can work together in the future to build better hair scenes in our communities.

Robert Watkins



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