What We Can All Learn From a Barbershop

A couple of weeks ago I went to get my usual haircut from my local barbershop.  I tend to zone out or even dose off when I get my haircut, I guess I’m tired.  But for whatever reason, this time I didn’t and I couldn’t help but think to myself, sports medicine and fitness professionals could really learn some valuable lessons from a barbershop.

This is going to be written from the male perspective, I am sure it is a little different for women, but I think you’ll get my point.  For the guys, we basically have three options when we want to get a haircut – The chain franchise, the salon, or the barber shop.  Just like everything else in the world, there are exceptions to the rule, so don’t get mad at me.  Lets take a closer look.


The Chain Haircut Franchise

obtain fulfilling patientsWe’ve all been to one of the chain haircut franchises, there are a bunch of them now, but let’s refer to them as, oh I don’t know…  “SuperClips.”  Many people are perfectly content at SuperClips.  They offer a decent product at a low price, and if cost is your primary concern, you probably go to SuperClips.  But, I can’t help but feel rushed at one of these places, I’ve been in and out of a SuperClips in under 10 minutes.  The emphasis is clearly on volume and not quality – attention to detail is missing.  Have you seen how big those combs and scissors are?  You can cut my entire head of hair in three snips!  So, if price and speed are your primary deciding factors when choosing where to get your hair cut, SuperClips is the place for you, there is nothing wrong with that at all.  If you breakdown their model, here is what we have:

  • Emphasis on volume
  • Lower quality, though not awful
  • Fast service, but attention to detail suffers

Photo credit


The Upscale Salon

Now lets look at the other side of the spectrum, the upscale salon.  Again, for the ladies reading this, you may disagree, but this is geared more to the male perspective.  At the upscale salon, you walk in and everything is nice and pretty.  The atmosphere is upscale and classy.  Maybe the salon is named after someone, as if this person has found the magic secret to cutting a guys hair.  The stylists there spend time with you and pay close attention to detail, almost pamper you to an extent.  You probably get a lot out of the service and have many more options, such as shampoo, massage, coloring, etc.  But for many of us, we don’t take advantage of these extra services, but we still pay for them in the extra cost.  These salons are often in upscale areas as well, so their higher rent is also reflected in the cost.

  • Emphasis on the experience
  • Overpriced
  • Paying for the glitz and glamour
  • Good quality, but maybe not as much as you would think


The Local Barbershop

obtain fulfilling clientsLastly, let’s break down the barbershop.  Your barber is probably highly experience and specializes in cutting men’s hair.  While a typical barbershop is not glitzy like a salon, it’s environment is still pleasing for men, this probably why there always seems to be a couple of guys hanging out, drinking a coffee from Dunkin Donuts, and talking in the barbershop even after their haircuts.  Not a lot of glamour but there is a probably a good magazine and newspaper selection with some sort of sport or news program on the TV.  You’ll probably pay a little more than SuperClips, but not by much.  But the real difference here is the emphasis on customer service, attention to detail, and producing a quality product.

My haircut is always pristine and I never feel rushed.  My barber pays close attention to every aspect of the cut and assures that everything is lined up and perfect.  In fact, when I am forced to get a haircut while traveling, he can always tell and find the sloppy flaws.  He takes his time and I never feel rushed.  I’ll get a nice straight edge razor around the edges and he’ll make sure that he uses some nice aftershave and talc at the end.

Barber’s know that their best advertisement is word of mouth, not a glitzy ad campaign or a coupon in the mail.  My barber knows my name and I know his, we are both people, not just customers.  It is the perfect combination of price, quality of product, and customer service.

  • Emphasis on a quality product and customer service
  • A little more expensive than the “SuperClips” but much cheaper than the Salon
  • Attention to detail
  • A good experience without the unnecessary fluff – the glitz and the glamour

Photo credit


What We Can Learn From a Barbershop

I guess it all really depends on what your goals are if you are running a gym, performance center, or clinic.  To me, it is all about attracting the ideal client or patient – one that cares about what you care about – getting better.

There is nothing wrong with trying to just turn a profit, maybe that is your goal.  Everyone can tell when they are being rushed or when the quality of product or service they receive is sloppy.  We have all seen the trainer that is checking their phone when their clients are working out or the therapist that is starring off into space when performing an ultrasound.  But don’t complain about the type of client or patient you have, the one that doesn’t prioritize the quality of your product.  These will never be professionally fulfilling, except for your pockets.  But you’ll always have to hustle to get more people in the door.

There is also nothing wrong with trying to provide the glitz and the glamour, many people love this and will prioritize this over quality of product.  Just make sure it’s not just smoke and mirrors.  I would rather train or rehab with an expert that cares about me in their garage than at the most pristine performance center in the world if the quality of the product is sacrificed.  Good for you if you can afford all the best equipment, but if you can’t that doesn’t mean you can’t provide a better product.

If you really want to attract the fulfilling clients and patients, and you know the one’s I mean – the die hards, the fans, the ones that keep coming back and become part of the family – then learn from the barbershop.  Emphasize the quality of your product, attention to detail, and customer service and everything else will work itself out.

12 replies
  1. Sean
    Sean says:

    As a recent grad (30 days ago), I think this article is a nice analogy as to the environment that I would like to practice in — especially for my first job. Also, as a coincidence, I got a haircut yesterday at a barbershop that I had not been to before: it was no frills, I received a quality cut with attention to detail, and the barber engaged me in pleasant conversation. I’ll be sure to return.

  2. Jenn Reiner, DC, CSCS
    Jenn Reiner, DC, CSCS says:

    Well said, Mike. Let’s face it, the chiropractic profession probably has one of the worst reputations for high volume, minimal time spent with patients, and no individualized treatment plans (if any). Patient’s appreciate the extra time spent on detail and a team of people working together to help them. Now, if I could only convince the other 90% of the chiro population.

  3. Bob Schroedter
    Bob Schroedter says:

    Agreed, Mike. I learned from Larry Benz that there are three things patients value:
    – Someone who listens to their story and understands what to do
    – Ease of accessibility to care
    – One who collaborates with other members of the HC team

    Essentially these are components of the same quality service and product of which you speak. If you’ll excuse me, I have some sideburns to trim.

  4. Bob G
    Bob G says:

    Great post Mike! I definitely want to be the Barbershop.

    Though I do get a little frustrated when orthoped…wait, let’s call them scalp surgeons, try to funnel clients, my friends and neighbors in my little community, to the chain franchise they have a vested interest in.

    That would be one thing if the chain franchise offered some kind of outstanding or specialty service. But from what I hear, that’s rarely the case.

  5. Allen Rubin
    Allen Rubin says:

    Great post, Mike! I’ve always strived to be the Barbershop with my small clinic whether I realized it or not. I find it extremely rewarding and satisfying for me and my clients.

  6. Mike
    Mike says:

    Couldnt agree more. Too many times I see the “numbers, numbers, numbers” model being used and colleagues only caring about recieving bonuses from the high amounts of volume they see…I call it shit soup. Way to go mike, AWESOME article!!!

  7. Barry Wrench, PT, DPT
    Barry Wrench, PT, DPT says:

    Mike, this is a great analogy. Follows along with how I try to run my practice. I agree that all the newest gadgets are cool and all, but I think being great at a few things/techniques way beats a bunch of gadgets. I can’t tell you how many times patients have been amazed when i just put my hands on them for 10 minutes of one on one manual therapy. I hear a lot of ” I didn’t get that at that other place” comments. And really, all I am doing is listening to the consumer and giving them what they need in the best, most efficient way possible while building a personal relationship. Great post, and great advice for all of us!

  8. kevin
    kevin says:

    Agreed mike, especially in the HOPS and POPS environments, the product, value, and one on one time are huge, but you might want to run if you see me break out the straight edge.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] and since its not a topic search engine keyword, it is worth sharing his post again (find it here). This post is intended for all therapists, but especially young grads and students or ones who have […]

  2. […] the past, I wrote articles about what we can all learn from a barbershop and what we can all learn from Steve Jobs.  If you haven’t read them, this would be a time to go […]

Comments are closed.