”Today, while the old model may thrive in black or up-and-coming neighborhoods, white professional men are seeking a pampered experience elsewhere.
And they’re creating intimate relationships in these new men’s salons. But instead of immersing themselves in single-sex communities of men, they’re often building one-on-one confidential relationships with women hair stylists. Stylists often explained this intimacy as part of their jobs. For white men with financial means, though, the men’s salon becomes an important place where they can purchase the sense of connection they may otherwise be missing in their lives." Lynne Anderson Senior Editor, Health + Medicine "Goodbye to the barbershop?" August 7, 2016.
Recently I spent about nine months working in a chain male salon/barbershop. By chain, I generally am referring to the species of barbershops or salons that are in essence franchise or multi-location business models that are or intended to located in numerous locations. Some familiar examples of this are: Borics, Fantastic Sims, Supercuts, Master cuts, Sports Clips, and some which are actually barbershops like Floyd's 99 Barbershop and The Roosters Men's Grooming Center. All of the aforementioned salon and/or barbershop brands have at least 50 locations. The typical relationship between the operator (barber or stylist)and the chain salon/barbershop is generally W2 based, meaning that the operator is an employee and not a contractor or booth renter. I think that outside of the chain salon/barbershop models, W2 employment is extremely uncommon and that generally in independently owned salon and barbershop establishments, an operator will more than likely be a contract worker who earns a commission on services and sales or an operator will rent a "booth" from the salon or barbershop owner paying a weekly fee to offer services in a barbershop or salon.
The market fundamentals that drive the modern day chain phenomenon for barbershops and salons in my opinion is not much different from those that gave rise to the mother of all chain offerings, namely McDonald's. Some, in my opinion, but not all of the drivers of such chain models are: efficiency, cheap labor, locations in prime retail areas, and the purchasing power scale engenders. These model's labor force in my opinion are generally built on labor demographics that are readily available at a relative discount: examples are women, minorities, students, recent graduates, teens, etc. In general, I believe that the goal of any chain venture is to engineer key processes related to its offering into a reasonably duplicatable model and keep stamping out as many locations as markets will profitably support. At the chain approach to business is hardly novel or rocket science. As I believe is the case with all business ventures regardless of the approach or styling, success is not a given. The chain models have, in my opinion some very obvious and persistent detractors, which include but are not limited to: low wages for employees, little or no healthcare benefits, and high employee turnover. There are some areas in which I believe chain operations tend to shine in the market place, like relative consistency, reliability, and predictability in their offerings and it seems that Americans have shown that they can be wooed by such business attributes in the absence of other desirables like variety, choice, creativity and originality.
Here are some of the specific ways in which I feel the chain salon/barbershop I worked for employed some simply chain style modalities to get results that I feel are arguably an improvement over what I appreciated working at non-chain salons and barbershops:
Interestingly enough, just before my employment with the chain barbershop/salon ended I was told by one of the stylist who had been employed there for years that there was a local two-location barbershop business which had a staff consisting almost entirely of barbers and stylist who got their start at the chain barbershop/salon in which we were employed. She [my co-worker] said that these barber and stylist had almost invariably left the chain barbershop/salon where we worked because of improved earnings realized at the comparably smaller locally owned two-location barbershop chain which had barbershops nearby. The two-location barbershop siphoning workers from our chain barbershop employer offered 50/50 commission contracts and had a higher price point for its services. So, it almost seems as if the national 100 plus location chain barbershop/salon that I worked for was inadvertently operating like a quasi school, inadvertently training and developing hair care professionals to work for other barbershops and salons which in this case are direct competitors. Consequently, the chain barbershop/salon that I worked for was quite the meat-grinder of sorts having high turn-over in talent. Patrons seemed to be accustom to the constant churn and burn because I were often queried about former operators and customers would ask me questions or make statements that implied that they were worried that I might not stick around for long.
Other than cutting hair, among other fields of endeavors, I have worked in the automobile industry for over twenty years. So, from the reference of automobiles, I would say that like cars and trucks, not all chain salon models are created equally. Much like cars and trucks in the marketplace, I believe that there are some fundamental similarities in how chain salons or chain barbershops are constructed. With that said, my experience in working for a chain salon or chain barbershop is limited to having worked for one such establishment for about nine months. Arguably, in the aggregate, the collection of brands under Regis Corp. have the most experience in North America with operating chain salons and have one chain barbershop brand that I am aware of called Roosters Men's Grooming Center. I have not worked for one the Regis Corp. brands yet. At any rate, conceivably, like with automobiles, there are rarely one size fits all constructs that satisfy every consumer or that meet the demands and or taste of every market. Therefore, it is reasonable to conceive that due to market variants and perhaps due to defects in the chain salon's or chain barbershop's business model, the establishment may or may not do so well in certain marketplaces over time. As with certain models of automobiles, I think that it takes a little time to really assess quality and durability of a chain barbershop or chain salon model. And as with automobiles, initial appeal and even prolific sales are not always indicators of quality or permanence in the marketplace. In terms of cars, think Yugo.
The chain barbershop/salon that I worked for, in my opinion, had very unrealistic expectations from me as a barber in that I felt that the company generally budgeted too little time for me to render all of the company proscribed services to a patron. For example, I was budgeted a half-hour to:
(1) conduct a hair-cut consultation and then cut a patrons hair regardless of length or style more or less with exception to what the company referred to as "skin-fades";
(2) give each client a "massage shampoo";
(3) give each client a shoulder massage with an electrical vibrating massager;
(4) give every adult client a hot lather, straight razor neck shave;
(5) sanitize hands between each client;
(6) retrieve broom and dustpan to sweep up hair after each client;
(7) sanitize and/or sterilize tools (barber chair, combs, brushes, razors, etc.) prior to use on clients;
(8) style the client's hair after the haircut, ideally using some product that is available for sale at check-out counter;
(9) and escort each client to customer service person to be checked out, which often meant waiting with the client until patrons serviced by other operators were checked out.
All of the aforementioned service was to be provided a price point that was in my estimation about 15-20% less than what the average men's haircut cost at other comparable barbershops in the area. Consequently, I observed almost every other operator cutting corners to keep up. Keeping up for some operators seemed to mean everything from forgoing sweeping, allowing hair from multiple patrons to pile up under their barber chairs to just about every other shortcut you can imagine including at times what I would consider really bad haircuts. Mostly, the operators seem to skimp on protocols or things required by the company but that would generally go unnoticed by the patron.
In the automotive production time-studies, a protocol usually performed by engineers, were conducted to determine if all the elements of a man assignment could indeed be effectively, ergonomically, and safely, performed within a certain time frame. I doubt that the nine plus company required elements above could be consistently performed in the thirty minutes I was allotted. My manager at the chain barbershop was basically scheduling hair cut appointments every half-hour. One co-worker, we will call Helen told me that she worked at another chain salon wherein the average hair cut time had to be seventeen minutes or less, so I think that just about all such chain style hair cutting places will have aggressive and ridged time constraints on hair cut services, but what else gets cut besides hair is concerning in my opinion.
The chain barbershop/salon that I worked for was in a great location in my opinion and followed the typical wisdom of such ventures by betting heavily on location. Good locations can make up for a lot of other weaknesses.
Finally, I will offer my evaluation of the chain salon/barbershop employment opportunity in the context of the elusive living wage standard. I was fortunate enough to witness some exceptional talent while working at the chain barbershop that has been the subject of this article. And, because the said chain barbershop published, usually on a post board in the break room, all of the barbers and stylist performance metrics like: average time spent on a client, average ticket on services, product retail sales, and total number of patrons serviced. I was therefore able to appreciate with some objectivity who were the exceptional performers according to certain metrics and also make observations on the floor to gain additional perspectives on other potentially contributing performance factors. A good example of this for instance, was a cosmetologist we will call Sheila, who hired on only days before I did, but quickly became a top performer in the chain barbershop in terms of most of the above mentioned metrics which were tracked and posted on a weekly basis. Sheila had, for context purposes, according to conversations I had with her recently immigrated to the U.S. from Ethiopia about four years prior to becoming employed at the chain barbershop/salon wherein she and I worked. Acceding to conversations I had with Sheila, she was a graduate of a Paul Mitchell school of cosmetology. I would say that within a roughly two months of working at this chain barbershop/salon, Sheila's earning were beginning to exceed every other barber or stylist earnings pursuant to the published metrics. I can recall Sheila gross receipts getting as high as $2700.00 in one week on about 70 patrons. To put that into perspective, because the $2700 exceeded a certain company designated threshold, Sheila was eligible to receive about half of that $2700 as her take in a commission split. So, for this particular week, Sheila earned about $1350.00 before tips. I don't know what Sheila made in tips that week because tips are not one of the published metrics, but I would say that the tips were on average about $6 per patron, so I would estimate that Sheila earned an additional $420 that week bringing the total earnings to about $1820.00. Sheila was definitely an outlier and the referenced week was around a busy holiday season. Other factors materially contributing to Sheila's relatively high earnings were that she worked more hours than most if not all of the other operators. Sheila once told me that a manager, we'll refer to as DJ, found out that she was moonlighting or working at another male salon close by and since there was an obvious conflict of interest the manager told her that she could not work for both salons. A compromise was brokered between Sheila and the manager and DJ begin scheduling Sheila over 40 hours per week. Because of Sheila's hustle, drive, talent and work ethic, I think the arrangement worked out well for both parties, but I did get a sense that some of the other operators in the salon may have been somewhat disenfranchised with the arrangement between DJ and Sheila. Most of the other 8 to 10 full-time operators on staff at the time had gross receipts in the range of $400-$1600 per week. For additional perspective, I would also say that for the most part, the other operators who consistently had gross receipts in the range of $1000 to $1600 were veterans in that they had been working at this chain barbershop/salon for about four years or so.
Here, I offer another anecdotal reference for earnings. One week in mid November of last year, 2019, a four year veteran, we'll call Doris, was the top earner in terms of gross receipts. Doris out performed Sheila only by 9 haircuts that week having a total of 59 haircut or 59 patrons served at average of $28.43 per client making Doris' total gross receipts to $1677.43. Given an average tip of $6, the veteran staffer Doris earned approximately $1192.72. I on the hand served 35 patrons that week with an average ticket of $23.91 producing a gross receipts total of $836.85. At this time I made $10.00 per hour unless I exceeded a thousand dollar gross receipts, at which point I would get a commission on the gross sales. I actually don’t remember the exact commission cut because I scarcely had over $1000.00 in gross receipts for any give pay week that I worked at the chain barbershop/salon. Also, to give some perspective on earnings and earnings potential in a chain barbershop/salon, it may be meaningful to know that during this particular week, there were about 500 patrons served by 15 different barbers or stylist who were on staff at the chain barbershop/salon at that time. I think that only two of the barbers or stylist were part-time at this time, so if you were to evenly divide the 500 or so patrons of this week up among the full-time staffers, each operator would potentially have serviced about 38 patrons during this particular week. So, at 38 patrons, I in particular, would have theoretically had about $908.58 in gross receipts for that week given an average ticket of $23.91.
Draw any inferences you will from the data above that I have given you, but in my opinion a living wage was either not in the cards or so remote a possibility that the chances of achieving it [a living wage] are not meaningful for most. Considering the lack of the fringe benefits like health care/health insurance or dental care/dental insurance, and retirement pension, I think that most would need considerably more income. As is I believe the case with being employed by many of the prolific chain style businesses in America, a living wage may not be a reasonable expectation when considering employment as a barber with most chain style operations. What is I believe a reasonable expectation is an income that could be for some sufficient as a bridge income, meaning wages that are sufficient for a very limited period of time, or supplemental income in that an individual or family has other ways and means of support or income insomuch that the can afford to work for low wages. Arguably, the income or earnings scenarios may not be much better in the field of barbering where one is not employed by a chain barbershop or salon, but it is my opinion that outside of getting some good training potentially, the chain barbershop models do not for the most part do much to help barbers achieve a living wage.
By John L. Roseman, Sr.
All Rights Reserved
©November 4, 2020
Can You Cut The President's Hair?
By John Roseman
Taken from:CUTTING BLACK MEN’S HAIR (A PRACTICAL GUIDE)
There are a number of compelling reasons to learn how to cut black men’s hair: not the least of which is, should America’s top executive (President Barak Obama) require your grooming services, you, as a hair care professional, could confidently oblige him. When you light up the open sign on your salon or barber shop, you never know who’s going to come knocking. Here is another reason to learn how to cut black men’s hair. Black men seek professional grooming services at a far more frequent rate than their white male counterparts. Three weeks is far too long a stretch between haircuts for most black men and many will frequent the salon or barbershop as often as every week, making them exceptionally profitable clients. Being able to service patrons of varying hair types will help expand the possibilities for your career in the hair care profession.
Early in my haircutting career (before completing Barber College and becoming licensed) I worked at a salon in Southfield Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. Typically, 100 percent of this salons clientele and staff were Black. One day when business was slow, the salon owner convinced a white delivery man to patronize his business by getting a haircut at this salon. It was early and I was the only staff available to do the haircut. Until this moment, I had only seen Caucasian hair. I’d never touched a white person’s hair before and had no clue as to cut it. After a short consultation with the gentleman, I commenced an attempt to give him a haircut. The gentleman’s hair was about 5-7 inches long and very straight. I began to attack his hair with electric clippers and began to work myself into a state of utter confusion. Anxiety, stress, frustration and utter humiliation began to grow as I failed miserably at cutting this very patient gentleman’s hair. This lasted for about a half hour or more until this customer and I were finally rescued when another stylist that was proficient in cutting straight hair types arrived to work. Right away, I noticed as she began confidently cutting his hair, that she had a totally different approach than I did. She cut his hair with shears after wetting it. Years later, my brother told me that he had a similar experience as a patron of a white stylist who began cutting his hair by combing it up between her fingers and cutting it with shears. Well, suffice it to say that my brother does not have hair that suits this haircutting technique.
Nearly five years after this first experience with cutting Caucasian hair; frustrated with how my haircutting career was going, I decided it was time for me to go back to Barber College. I felt that I had come to the point where not having a license was holding me down professionally and limiting my options in the business. So, I enrolled in a Detroit Barber College located in Dearborn Michigan. The Detroit Barber College was founded in Detroit and at some point moved to Dearborn, a suburb just north of Detroit. I had attended another barber college located in the city limits of Detroit for a short period about eight years before I enrolled into the Detroit Barber College. My experience, however, at the Detroit Barber College was quite different. The clientele was rather diverse at the Detroit Barber College, whereas the barber college I attended before was located in the city of Detroit and had an all black clientele. While the Detroit Barber College had a black clientele, there was also a significant Caucasian, Arab, Hispanic, and Indian patronage. Prior to me having enrolled into the Detroit Barber College, I had cut hair nearly 12 years; but up until this point my knuckles had not been is such great jeopardy. My instructor who was also the schools owner kept plenty of bandages around for us rookies who would accidentally cut our knuckles with shears as we practice techniques for cutting straight hair. Cutting straight hair was a whole new ballgame for me, but I was excited to learn and appreciated the opportunity to dramatically expand my professional skill set. At some point, I actually began to dodge some of the Blacks patrons in so that I could take advantage of every opportunity to develop and improve upon techniques for cutting straight hair types. I’d been cutting Black men’s hair for the last 12 years and it seemed to me that the greater value to me professionally at this point was practicing to become proficient with cutting, styling, and even coloring straight hair types.
The true test to my success in becoming competent and proficient with cutting straight hair types came when I got a position after completing my courses at Barber College. My first job as a licensed barber was cutting hair in a high end suburban salon. I was thrilled to have clients come back to me with stories about the compliments they’d gotten from their wives. Anyone who has ever cut hair knows that the compliments that a client receives on their hair after you’ve cut it will make it hard for them to go to someone else to get a haircut, if you’re available. It’s also a great feeling to have as a professional when you know that you don’t have to shy away from cutting a customer’s hair because of its texture. So if you’re a professional barber or stylist who has been avoiding textured hair, I hope this book is an inspiration for you to challenge yourself.
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