BY WANZA POOLE
Unprecedented and trying times like these calls upon the best of all humanity to rise and support one another. What I’ve learned over the past 32 years of being a barber in the hair industry is how what we provide is more than a haircut and products—we’re actually building lifelong relationships with clients who become friends and, sometimes, more like family.
Since this horrific virus has landed upon us, I’ve received a lot of support from my clients who not only check if I can financially sustain the hit of shutting down but also offer me resources to be healthy like masks, sanitizer, water, prayer, emotional support, business advice and more. I feel so comforted and blessed from the career I've built.
For years, I’ve spoken to students and novices about how being a professional is more than becoming a dynamic stylist or barber—to me, that’s only one-third of what leads to a successful career. Another third is people skills and relationship-building, which is more challenging for younger generations due to social media and not having the practice interacting with people face-to-face, especially in conflict-resolution situations.The last third is business acumen. You have to have a thirst for business if you wish to become strong in the industry and in many areas of life.
Another important lesson I've learned is that clients become loyal not only because of your skills but because there's something about you that they connect with—they can confide in you and want to see you sustain a high level of success. It’s times like these where ”relationship-building” comes into play and means so much more than technical skills.
If you’ve ever attended an Iconic Barber business class, I always speak about reading books on leadership, networking, relationships and finances. These are the subjects schools do not delve deep into due to strict guidelines—they're more focused on basic knowledge, technical skills, earning licenses and getting students on their way to the workforce. The other elements you learn "trial by fire” or by attending trade shows and learning from some of the best in the industry.
During any "time off" ask yourself, “What am I working on to make myself a better professional?” Once you begin the journey into self-examination, do not start with your strengths—begin with your weaknesses but also be honest with what your weaknesses are. If that's hard for you, ask the people you work with for their honest opinion. Try to not take it personally; please take those criticisms and allow them to fuel your desire to be the best version of yourself going forward.