Get going: Lessons learned in a barber shop

I used to talk about opening a barbershop like I talked about skating the big half-pipe at 8-Ball Skate Park. I learned all the lingo, purchased a membership and climbed to the top of the ramp. But every single time I got there, I’d look down at the twelve inches of vert and say, ‘Nah, not today.’ I’d follow that up with a myriad of excuses: too many people are on this one, I’m tired, I could do it but I don’t feel like it. The truth is, I didn’t know how. I loved the idea of it but never put practical methodology to my quest. More importantly, I didn’t even know why I wanted to do it. So when I was asked to think about this piece it crossed my mind that I have no idea how to open a business. Honestly, I googled it. But I do know why I opened a business and how to navigate through trouble. Here’s what I learned.


Nothing incredible happens in your comfort zone. Trust me. For seven years, I commuted an hour each way to a barbershop. It was worth it because I was making great money, but I peaked four years in. Even after I hit the ceiling, I couldn’t leave the comfort. I mean, the thought of leaving a thick clientele I had spent years building is right on par with trading a jacuzzi for a shark tank. The more I sat in the jacuzzi, the more I realized this: nothing astounding happens in a jacuzzi (place sex joke here). A shark tank is dangerous. Danger excites the spirit and can absolutely reveal your ability! This is a great place to be. Scary, but great.

You have to manage fear. Fear is like a friend of a friend that shows up randomly to your cookout and feels strangely comfortable enough to invite all the worries you never wanted. It’s tough to calm down and realize that fear is the main problem. Once he leaves, a lot of the worries will follow him out. He’ll come back, but now you know how to deal with him. My biggest fear was failure. What if I start this thing, sink a bunch of money in it and it goes belly up? I would have to return to my job and explain what happened to each of my 200+ clients. No thanks. After I dissected that thought, I came up with this: If that’s the worst thing that can happen, who cares? I still have my health and the fact that my old job is still available is a huge plus. Anyone busting my chops for trying and failing is not a person who’s opinion I value anyway, so I let it rip.

You really have to look at failures as lessons. BOOM! I just dropped that sentence like it’s possible on the first try. It’s a paradigm shift. This is the single toughest concept to believe in. It can rattle around that cranium of yours, but getting it into your heart is tough stuff. However, doing this will change the way you look at the whole process. I convinced myself that every time I fail, I’ll chalk it up as real-world experience. I’m literally paying for my own education and it’s way cheaper than college. Now you are out of your comfort zone, managing your fears; it’s time to get busy.


Visions are dreams and goals are the means. Someone, put that on a t-shirt! I’m kidding, but it’s that important. You absolutely must have a vision! We all want to be our own boss and make our own schedule, but what’s your vision? For me it was to create a modern barbershop with an old-school sensibility. What’s yours? Make sure you dream a lot and add as much detail as you can. Write it all down and read it for a week. Share it only with people who know you well and are supportive. Sometimes our own families can be the greatest saboteurs. I mean, we are all human and it’s natural for humans to thrash an idea that’s unfamiliar.

Behind the vision should be your purpose. What is the fuel to your fire? What’s your purpose for opening said business, besides making money? For me, it was to work closer to home so I could spend more time with my wife and have more time for creativity. Write down the purpose under your vision. This little package of ideas will serve as the life-force throughout the process. It will be the only thing that gets you back on the road after a flat, and flat tires will happen. Here’s a few: frustration, hidden costs, screw-ups, permits, licenses, deadlines, spats with spouse/friends, self-doubt, and compromise. Take a breath here. Misunderstandings, broken glass, busted budgets, lost tools, late nights, early mornings, sleep deprivation, and nay-saying will happen. Every time you are up against these, your vision and purpose will remind you of your final destination. They can resolve and untangle the mess.

Time to set goals! Like I said, they’re the means; the road map. I wanted to open on January 1st and I signed the lease on my store front November 5th. I had two months to get the place built, painted, furnished and licensed. Also, I needed to line up some advertising, signage and utilities. I created a basic to-do list on a schedule. This is tricky.  For example, the floors need to be done before the chairs are delivered and the walls need to be painted before the floor is done. I don’t wanna paint the walls until the phone people are here in case they need to put holes in there. But I really can’t do anything until the lights and heat are on, which I couldn’t start until I had a tax ID. I couldn’t get that until I had a business license. Whoa! You can see how the scheduling is key. What are your goals for week one? Week two? Be open to changing them around every day.


This is a boiled-down synopsis of a two-month, life altering journey. There are entire sections of libraries dedicated to this topic and countless professionals with more experience. Again, this is not a how-to article as much as it’s a motivational tool to get you on track with practical application. Get going!

In addition to the endless support from my wife, I got a lot of fuel from these resources.

The Dave Ramsey Show

Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast

48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller

Purple Cow by Seth Godin


Photo: Anton Novoselov