I go to Uptown Barbers in Vancouver’s (Mt. Pleasant ‘hood to get my hair cut every six weeks or so. Marco and Ben – the two barbers who I most often visit – deliver haircuts as good as the banter in their shop. Being able to start and sustain great conversations while sculpting a client’s hair isn’t an easy thing to master. And there’s a lot to learn from the culture of these community spaces, too. Here are three professional lessons from barber shops.

Be a great conversationalist

As a rule, barbers have to be pretty good conversationalists. After all, whether it’s a first or eleventh-time customer, Ben and Marco need to shoot the breeze with the person in their chair for at least 20 minutes. I appreciate how they both ask good questions without it feeling like an interrogation, offer perspectives on topics without being pretentious, and graciously stand by their opinions even if the guy in the chair sees things another way. Dialogue is an elusive thing in our world and having a strong conversational toolkit is a key differentiator for building a connected community in your neighbourhood or workplace.

Learn new things

Speaking of learning, it happens everywhere, especially in barber shops. I always walk out of Uptown Barbers with a tasty nugget of information, like the time that Marco, after inquiring about my taste in music, recommended Runnin’ Down a Dream, a Netflix documentary about Tom Petty. Ben suggested that I take my son to the Burnaby Central Railway, which is advice that I’ve since passed along to many other parents in my community. It is unlikely that I’d cross paths with a lot of folks who visit Uptown Barbers in any other part of my life, so participating in stories about music, romance and (every now and then), housing totally shift my perspective and help me to generate new ideas.

Add value

This is the thing that you can do to differentiate yourself from everyone else. When you add value to someone’s experience it’s a game changer and Robin Sharma writes and talks about this ad nauseam – here’s a sample of his thinking: “All of your most highly cherished dreams can become reality as long as you help enough of those around you get to their personal mountaintops. Shift from me to we and watch your career – and your life – become shockingly successful.” He’s not wrong. I walk out of Uptown Barbers with a great haircut, some new ideas, and a genuine feeling of connection to a place and its people. It’s super simple and it’s a great example of how to add value in a person’s life.

Photo Credit: Tangled Bank Flickr via Compfight cc

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