Lessons on Innovation from a Barber Shop

Barbershop. Photo: www.enashipai.com

Innovation and creativity are the cornerstones of entrepreneurship. The other characteristic is the need for an entrepreneur to be persistent. Persistence is being obstinate (stubborn) with your belief, your vision. When you are stubborn, visionary, it shows in your talk, facial expression and the like. You are motivated in your world beyond redemption. You cannot give up your dream! Entrepreneurs are known to be action oriented, as Herbert Spenser noted; “The greatest aim of education is not knowledge but ACTION.”

Many people always look at the problems and the challenges they face, and driven by fear, they will postpone pursuing their dream until the time they think they will be ready. This time never comes and one falls prey to the enemy of action called procrastination.

Let’s look at a micro entreprise in the CBD Nairobi run by an entrepreneur called Peter in his late 30’s. He owns a shop dealing in mobile phones and accessories, and a barber shop hidden under a staircase. The shop is located at the building entrance and has two employees; while the barber shop has two employees with a provision of a third person.

The barber shop is in a hidden corner, lacking visibility. It is a state of the art barber shop, its walls adorned with full length mirrors, and it has open cabinets meticulously designed. Peter is absent most of the time. His businesses are opened at 7.30 am every day without fail, six days a week. All proceeds of the day are banked directly to the businesses bank accounts through Mpesa and records kept of each transaction. Peter when around spends his time in the shop.

The barber shop employees are welcoming, professional and highly motivated. They are all ladies aged between 20-30 years in my assessment. Peter has perfected the art of delegation through motivation accompanied with business systems. He doesn’t need to be present for his businesses to run.

Visibility is normally a challenge to many businesses. Being located at a corner behind a stair case does not help matters. To overcome this problem, at the building entrance there is a big simple signage “KINYOZI” in red on a white background. No brand name. His potential customers are busy Nairobi hustles who would like a quick clean shave or beard touch up. This is done quickly, professionally, in a very clean environment.

The establishment has no flowing water. Peter has made it available in water containers. There is a gadget to heat towels. The open cabinets have neatly arranged towels and the UV machine for disinfecting shaving machines is also in place. The drawers help increase space. The mirrors magnify the tiny room giving the impression of a bigger work space.

Employing ladies says two things: one, they have tender hands, engage clients professionally and two, they serve with a smile. I was received well with a smile. They took away my jacket and put it on a hanger. After shaving, washing and cleaning was done. Disinfection was followed by application of a lotion. They use branded products. They know their niche. A beard shave costed me 150 KES. I know of places where I pay 50 KES, others 100 KES; yet my preference goes to Peters’ barber shop.

Lessons:

  1. Be different and focus on your customers
  2. Employ professional employees with desired business skills
  3. Build systems to run your business
  4. Focus on the opportunities, not the challenges you will face
  5. All problems especially business problems have solutions

In my opinion Peter should have uniforms designed for his employees at the barber shop and open more outlets to increase revenue and grow his assets base. Service is a growing industry and customers appreciate good service. I have paid 200 KES and 250KES for a beard shave. Men are good customers so long as they see value in your service.

In the next article I will cover a different form of business and show how innovation and creativity helps drive business. It is a differentiator superior to low prices.

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Vincent OgutuThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." target="_blank">

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This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. MSc, Ph.D. entrepreneurship (ongoing) is a Business Coach, Author, Trainer and Mentor, working with entrepreneurs to improve their businesses and helps potential entrepreneurs start their business right, grow and succeed. He is a director of Advance Business Consultants.